Thumbs up as a sign of resistance in the face of his fierce detractors and censors of rigorous Islam, sketching a slight smirk, Panji Gumilang, 77, a senior Indonesian Muslim dignitary, was not impressed by his sensational arrest.
In front of cameras that have not lost a beat, the famous preacher who, until Tuesday August 1, 2023, presided over the destinies of the Al-Zaytun Islamic school, in the heart of the predominantly Muslim province of West Java, the most populous in Indonesia, was arrested, head held high, by a squad of police.
What did he do to fall into such disgrace? Panji Gumilang made the mistake of being a little too progressive in coming out in favor of the imamate for women, pleading for them to lead the prayer while allowing them to pray alongside men, in a Indonesian society which is manifestly resistant to such advances.
” His positions have offended Indonesian society said Andreas Harsono, Indonesia specialist at Human Rights Watch. ” Panji Gumilang has always promoted gender equality within Islam and this has angered conservatives. There’s nothing wrong with a Muslim cleric standing up for women’s rights though, there’s something seriously wrong with blasphemy laws “, he added.
The septuagenarian, decried for his teaching methods deemed unorthodox, had until then run an Islamic school with 5,000 students. He ended up attracting the wrath of conservative groups, and now finds himself imprisoned for at least 20 days.
The accusation of “blasphemy and hate speech” hangs over him, even if the police spokesman national, Ahmad Ramadhan, did not explicitly formulate it as such, contenting himself with specifying that his arrest was made following several complaints lodged against him.
” Investigators have filed a lawsuit “, he said, explaining that “ Panji Gumilang will be detained and interrogated in the Criminal Investigation Agency Detention Center for at least 20 days. “. If convicted of blasphemy and hate speech, the senior Muslim cleric could face a heavy prison sentence of up to 10 years.
In an Indonesia which, although it has always advocated tolerance and pluralism, faces a climb of religious conservatism for some years, Panji Gumilang, however, has strong supporters among the 231 million faithful who populate the largest Muslim-majority country in the world.