Jakarta, Indonesia, Jul 9, 2019 / 12:05 am (CNA).- A mentally ill woman who identified herself as a Catholic is being held for blasphemy in Indonesia after an incident last week in which she brought a dog to a mosque and did not remove her shoes inside.
The woman, who has a schizophrenia diagnosis, was arrested on July 2 for blaspheming Islam, which is a criminal offense in the Muslim-majority country. It is punishable by up to five years in prison.
The incident for which the 52 year-old woman was arrested was caught on video and shared widely within the country. It shows the “visibly distressed” woman arguing with mosque members while her dog runs around, according to the Associated Press.
The woman had come to the mosque thinking that she was breaking up the wedding of her husband to another woman, according to reports from The Australian. Authorities charged her with blasphemy for failing to remove her shoes inside the mosque, and for bringing her dog, which is considered a ritually impure animal in the Islamic religion.
The woman is only being identified by SM, her initials. According to The Australian, her relatives have sent medical records to officials to prove that the woman is mentally ill and did not intentionally blaspheme the Islamic faith.
The woman was held at Jakarta’s Police Hospital, which confirmed that she had schizophrenia and recommended that she instead be transferred to a psychiatric facility.
Despite her mental illness, police have said that the blasphemy charges stand until a court decides otherwise. International human rights groups have long opposed blasphemy laws such as those in Indonesia. They argue that they are used primarily to manipulate and persecute Christians and other religious minorities.
Indonesia is the largest Muslim-majority nation in population in the world. While 87% of the population are Muslim, 10% are Christian, and 2% are Hindu. Discrimination and attacks on religious minorities in the country are not uncommon.
In April, Indonesia’s Supreme Court rejected the appeal of a Buddhist woman of Chinese descent who was convicted of blasphemy for complaining about the volume of a local mosque’s call to worship. She was sentenced to 18 months in prison. Her complaint is thought to have sparked a riot against Chinese-Indonesians, during which multiple Buddhist temples were burned or ransacked.
Basuki Tjahaja Purnama, a Christian and the former governor of Jakarta, completed a two-year sentence in January 2019 on a conviction of insulting the Quran.
Yunahar Ilyas, deputy chairman of the Indonesian Council of Ulema (MUI), a prominent body of political Islam, said that the woman’s actions should “not be considered as blasphemy” because of her schizophrenia, but he did not directly call for a drop of the charges against her, The Australian reported.
Amnesty International condemned SM’s recent arrest, calling it “inappropriate” given her history of mental illness.
“This latest, unfortunate and absurd case is further proof that blasphemy laws should be repealed. Police must immediately release the woman and drop the charges against her,” said Usman Hamid, executive director of Amnesty Indonesia, The Australian reported.