Rosnida Sari, a lecturer in gender studies at Ar-Raniry State Islamic University in Banda Aceh, Indonesia, has been subjected to threats and suspended from teaching after inviting a group of her students to voluntarily visit a Christian church as part of a lesson about religious tolerance. Professor Sari led the church visit in late 2014; shortly thereafter, on-line protests against her began, reportedly including accusations that she was attempting to “Christianize” her students, as well as death threats and threats against her family. In response, Professor Sari was temporarily suspended from her teaching position, and asked by university authorities to issue a public apology for her actions. Indonesia’s Religious Affairs Minister, Lukman Hakim Saifuddin, reportedly intervened, requesting that police provide Professor Sari with protection, and assuring Professor Sari that she would not be fired over the situation. However, as of this report, Professor Sari’s suspension apparently continues.
Scholars at Risk is concerned about physical threats and professional retaliation against a university faculty member conducting an academic exercise within her area of expertise. Such actions have a chilling effect on academic freedom and institutional autonomy. State and university authorities have a responsibility to protect higher education personnel from threats, and to do so in ways that do not undermine academic freedom or institutional autonomy, including by taking steps to ensure the security of the classroom space and the professor’s ability to continue teaching. SAR applauds the apparent support from a high ministry official for this scholar, including urging increased protection and security of employment. SAR notes, however that as of this report insufficient measures have been undertaken to ensure the scholar’s safe return to the classroom and therefore urges authorities to do more to ensure this scholar’s personal and professional security.