Blasphemy and persecution: Positioning in an inter-religious discussion

Peter Richardson, Stephen Pihlaja, Miori Nagashima, Masako Wada, Makoto Watanabe, Baramee Kheovichai

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


In May 2017, Basuki Tjahaja Purnama, popularly known as Ahok, the former Christian governor of Jakarta, Indonesia, was found guilty of blasphemy and sentenced to two years in prison. Although he was released in January 2019, his trial and the various reactions it elicited continue to highlight the very sensitive and complex issues surrounding the notion and enforcement of blasphemy and how different communities talk about it. This article focuses on a discussion about the trial between an Indonesian Muslim in favor of the blasphemy charge and an Indonesian Christian opposed to it. Using positioning analysis, it investigates how their conversation in English at a University in Japan exhibited an occasioned, fluid, developing range of evaluative language, both in terms of how they talked about themselves and others. The analysis demonstrates the complex interplay and consistent tension that is often present in inter-religious dialogue, and tracks how a wide array of discourse and contextual factors relate to developing positions, storylines, expressions of social power, and strategies for conflict management. We conclude by highlighting the inherent complexity of the dynamics of such interaction and how it can lead to greater convergence and/or tension, while emphasizing the potential benefits of face-to-face conversations around issues of possible conflict.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)75-98
Number of pages24
JournalText and talk
Issue number1
Early online date7 Nov 2019
Publication statusPublished - 2020


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