This illustration is by Jim Kay for A Monster Calls, a book by Patrick Ness written for teenage readers. Ness has won the Carnegie medal, British children's books' highest literary honour, and Kay the Kate Greenaway prize, the first time that one book has won both prizes.
I was impressed with Ness' acceptance speech; he criticised the UK Education Secretary for being a "man with no classroom teaching experience" who views teenagers as "laboratory animals to be experimented upon."
"The worst thing our current government and, in fact, we as a culture do about teenagers is that we only seem to discuss them in negative terms. What they can't do, what they aren't achieving. Why have we allowed that to happen?"
Ness particularly criticised Gove's "demonisation" of "hard-working, dedicated teachers for no other reason, it seems, than because they disagree with his policies, which include – incredibly – the idea that private companies making a profit on tax-funded schools might be an OK thing."
That could have lead me to write yet another rant about the growth of 'company' schools here. Having already aimed my barbs at Putera Sampoerna, I was tempted to have a go at Chinese Indonesian tycoon, Eka Tjipta Widjaja, whose foundation has founded the Sinarmas World Academy (SWA), but not because of anything said on its home page. In fact, what is stated sets the bar high for all schools in Indonesia to emulate – if they had the funding, resources and allowed teachers to go beyond 'teaching to the tests'.
Unfortunately, SWA's initial capital is ultimately derived from Sinar Mas which in 2010 was ranked 9th in the list of the world's most criticised companies "for destroying Sumatran rainforests in Indonesia, contributing to climate change through greenhouse gas emissions, destroying the habitats of endangered orangutans and Sumatran tigers, illegally burning forests, damaging rivers and fish stocks, destroying indigenous ways of life, creating social conflict through land rights and resources disputes, and playing a part in high profile political scandals over the illegal issuance of permits in protected forests.
"Sinar Mas has also been accused of purposely misrepresenting the findings of the company's audit in an effort to prove the allegations were false – an act which has recently been interpreted as fraud."
Today, however, the illustration above serves a better purpose. The monster in Indonesia is the threat to free expression from religious fundamentalists backed by the intimidated forces of 'law and order'.
Yesterday, Alexander Aan, 32, a Minang civil servant who was arrested for blasphemy after he declared himself an atheist on a social media website, was sentenced to two years and six months’ imprisonment and a Rp 100 million (US$10,600) fine by the Negeri Muaro District Court in West Sumatra.
Presiding judge Eka Prasetya Budi Dharma said Alexander had been proven guilty of defaming Islam and insulting the Prophet Muhammad through his Facebook account and a fan page titled Ateis Minang (Minang Atheist). He concluded, therefore, that the defendant had violated Article 28 of the Information and Electronic Transaction Law by spreading racial and religious hatred.
This conviction raises a number of issues, ones that in different manifestations keep being raised.
Voltaire(1694-1778),said, "If you have two religions in your land, the two will cut each other's throats; but if you have thirty religions, they dwell in peace."
His advocacy of civil liberties, including freedom of religion, freedom of expression and free trade has certainly altered the mindset of literate democracies in the two hundred plus years since he wrote those words, and generally for the betterment of mankind.
However, there is one lesson yet unlearnt: he advocated the separation of religion and state. The Indonesian Constitution guarantees the freedom of religion, albeit by naming six to be 'recognised', with unstated but implicit acceptance of certain interpretations which involve mystic and animistic practices, such as those which colour the daily lives of groups as varied as Central Javanese Muslims and Torajan Christians.
The forces of law, from the current President down to the street level police have shown nothing but incompetence in dealing with the forces of disorder who, in threatening and often displaying violence, are sowing the seeds of anarchy.
Alexander Aan has also shown himself to be a fool: he must surely been aware that he would stir up trouble for himself in portraying the Prophet Muhammad's sexual urges. After all, one is tempted to suggest that sex is the one animal urge which religious fundamentalists of all hues are unable to understand, let alone control.
What I find vaguely troubling though is that back in February, Alex submitted a written statement to the court in which he said that he regretted his behaviour and prayed for God’s mercy.
So, he isn't an atheist, a non-believer in an all-powerful being? That's one very confused, or conniving, individual.
Whatever, there is no reason for him to be branded as a criminal.
And every reason to support his right to be a fool.