Woman who recited Muslim prayer before trying pork on TikTok: Jailed

CNNA Muslim woman has been sentenced to two years in prison under Indonesia’s blasphemy law over a video she shared on TikTok which showed her reciting an Islamic prayer before trying out pork while visiting the tourist island of Bali.

Lina Lutfiawati, known as Lina Mukherjee on social media, was tried on Tuesday in the Palembang district court on Sumatra island.

The 33-year-old was found guilty of “spreading information aimed at inciting hatred against religious individuals and specific groups,” court documents read.

In addition to her two-year prison sentence, the court fined her $16,245 (250,000,000 Indonesian rupiah), a small fortune in a country where the annual per capita wage is around $4,300. Her jail term could be extended by three months if she does not pay the fine, the court added.

Speaking to reporters outside court on Tuesday after the trial, Mukherjee expressed shock at the sentence.

“I know I was wrong but I really did not expect this punishment,” she said, in comments carried by CNN affiliate, CNN Indonesia. It is possible that she will file an appeal, CNN Indonesia added.

Blasphemy cases on the rise

Indonesia is the world’s largest Muslim nation, where 231 million people, at least 93% of its adult population, identify as Muslim.

Religious conservatism has been on the rise in the country in recent years and rights groups have warned that blasphemy laws are being “increasingly weaponized” against religious minorities and those deemed to have insulted Islam.

Pork is forbidden in Islam and eating it remains taboo among most Indonesian Muslims. But the meat is commonly consumed by millions of non-Muslims, including the country’s ethnic Chinese population as well those living on the Hindu-majority island of Bali.

Mukherjee, who identifies as Muslim, commands a combined social media following of more than 2 million.

Known for her lifestyle and food videos showing her sampling various dishes, she received backlash over a video she shared on TikTok in March, which showed her sitting at a dining table and reciting the Islamic phrase “Bismillah” (In the name of Allah) before consuming crispy pork skin.

Bismillah is one of the most important and common holy phrases in Islam. It is the first phrase in the Quran and is often uttered by Muslims before eating. It is also frequently used as a generic declaration.

The video, which Mukherjee said had been filmed when she was traveling in Bali, featured her trying babi guling, a popular street food of rice and chunks of spit-roasted pork and crackling served with vegetables.

She speaks into the camera and grimaces as she tries a piece of pork crackling.

The video drew millions of views but was condemned by religious groups, including the Indonesian Ulema Council, the country’s top Muslim clerical body, which issued a ruling calling it “blasphemous.”

It also prompted a public complaint which sparked police investigations, which led to Mukherjee being prosecuted.

Photos and videos taken of Mukherjee throughout the trial and carried by CNN Indonesia often showed her in tears and accompanied by a heavy security presence.

“She’s done nothing wrong but it says a lot about (the state of) Indonesia… how a self-proclaimed moderate Muslim country is becoming a radicalized Muslim nation,” Human Rights Watch’s Indonesia researcher Andreas Harsono told CNN.

“The blasphemy chapter in the criminal code has been increased from one to six articles – a serious setback to protecting freedom of religion and belief in Indonesia,” he added. “It bucks a global trend to either not enforce blasphemy laws or to scrap them altogether.”

One of Indonesia’s most high-profile blasphemy cases was that of Basuki Tjahaja Purnama, an ethnic Chinese Indonesian politician widely known as Ahok who served as Jakarta’s first non-Muslim governor in 50 years.

He went on trial for blasphemy in 2017 after angering hard-line Muslims by referencing a verse from the Quran while campaigning for re-election in 2016 and was jailed for two years despite making a public apology.