A Catholic woman is facing five years in jail in Indonesia under strict blasphemy laws after she allowed her dog to run around inside a mosque.
The woman, identified in local reports only by her initials S.M., was filmed letting her dog off its leash inside a mosque in the West Java district of Bogor this week.
Dogs are considered impure animals by conservative Muslims, with even guide dogs rarely allowed inside mosques. The woman also failed to remove her shoes, which is another sign of disrespect.
The footage caused outrage after being posted online, prompting Indonesia’s highest Islamic clerical body to call for calm amid fears it could inspire attacks by the majority Muslim population on minority Christians.
In the video, the distressed woman can be seen ranting at the mosque’s caretaker who confronted her after she brought her pet inside.
He can be heard asking her what religion she is to which she replied ‘Catholic’ before claiming she was due to marry her husband there later that day.
Police believe she may have psychiatric issues, and the mosque says there were no ceremonies scheduled.
The confrontation quickly turns ugly, with the woman and the caretaker exchanging blows while her anxious pet runs around on the floor.
The dog later died after being run over by a car while an animal welfare group tried to capture it, a member of the group said.
Police were called to the mosque and arrested the woman for blasphemy, which carries a maximum sentence of five years in prison.
Rights groups have long called for the abolition of the law, which is often used to persecute Christians and other religious minorities.
Bogor police chief Andi Mochammad Dicky Pastika said the woman is a blasphemy suspect and an investigation is continuing.
He said evidence includes a video recording, testimony from five witnesses and the woman’s shoes, which she wore inside the mosque.
‘We will bring this case to the court,’ Mr Pastika said. ‘Even if later the results of the psychiatric examination say that she has psychiatric disorders… let the judge decide it in court.’
The woman was detained at a police hospital, where doctors recommended her transfer to a psychiatric facility.
The woman’s identity has not been disclosed. The hospital said sending her to a specialised facility so she can be closer to her family and make it easier to communicate with her.
Amnesty International said the blasphemy case is ‘unfortunate and absurd’ and highlights why Indonesia’s blasphemy law should be repealed.
‘The state’s priority should be her well-being. Her actions may have felt insensitive, but these issues can be resolved peacefully, it is not a matter for the courts,’ said Amnesty’s executive director in Indonesia, Usman Hamid.
Religious leaders called on the public to not be incited by the incident.
Yunahar Ilyas, deputy chairman of the Indonesian Ulema Council, the country’s top Muslim clerical body, said he doubted the woman understood what she was doing was a threat to religious harmony.
‘That makes absolutely no sense if it is done by a sane person in a Muslim-majority nation,’ he told reporters. ‘Don’t be provoked.’
The dog, which was chased out of the mosque, died when it was hit by a car as members of an animal welfare group tried to capture it, one of the group’s members said in a Facebook post.
Last year a court in Sumatra sentenced a woman who complained about the volume of a mosque’s loudspeakers to 18 months in prison for blasphemy. She was released on parole in May.
Mobs burned and ransacked at least 14 Buddhist temples in Tanjung Balai, a port town on Sumatra, in a riot in July 2016 following reports of the woman’s comments.