A 22-year-old man in Malaysia has been sentenced to ten years in prison for insulting Islam and the Prophet Muhammad on his Facebook page.
The man, identified as Ayea Yea in reports, pleaded guilty to ten charges in a court in Kuala Lumpur.
Ayea Yea was not the only one. Royal Malaysia Police also filed charges against three other social media users who insulted Islam and the prophet.
The charges that the four faced were made on Friday. According to the excessively named Inspector-General of Police Tan Sri Mohamad Fuzi Harun, the charges were made because the four were "prejudicing the maintenance of harmony on the grounds of religion." He added that "publishing any statement to incite a community" and the "improper use of network services" were criminal actions.
According to the Inspector-General, the police "received 929 reports across the country on these cases and opened 16 investigation papers on cases connected to insulting Islam."
The official religion of Malaysia is Islam (a little over 60% of the country's population is Muslim). There are two separate systems of law: there are the civic courts, and then there are the Syariah Courts, which apply Sharia law to Muslims.
Islam and criticism have frequently not mixed well, especially in recent years. While most religions have reacted poorly to criticism at various points in their history, the scale and scope of the fallout of criticism of Islam makes it the most prolific example today.
In September, I wrote about Saudi Arabia, where online satire was being punished with prison sentences up to five years. In my post about Christians upset over McJesus, I referenced the controversy over the cartoons of Muhammad published in the Danish newspaper, Jyllands-Posten in 2005. In the violent protests that followed the cartoon publication more than 200 people died... over a cartoon.
There is a lot more than just that though. For just one more famous example we have the fatwa issued against Salman Rushdie in 1989 over his book The Satanic Verses. Among other attacks that followed the fatwa, the novel's Japanese translator was stabbed to death, and the Italian translator was nearly killed.
In Malaysia itself there is this story from 2017 where a minister within the Prime Minister's Department called for atheists to be "hunted down" within the country.
This is what theocracy looks like, and this kind of medieval thinking is something we should all oppose.