What did Lina Lutfiawati aka Lina Mukherjee do? Viral pork video controversy explained as TikTok star receives jail sentence
Lina Lutfiawati, a 33-year-old Indonesian lifestyle influencer, was sentenced to two years for saying “Bismillah,” a popular Islamic phrase, which translates to “In the name of God,” before eating crispy pork skin in a TikTok video. Lutfiawati, who identifies as Muslim, has adopted the name Lina Mukherjee after being influenced by Indian Bollywood movies.
In March 2023, Lutfiawati tried the pork dish out of curiosity while vacationing in Bali, a popular Indonesian tourist spot with a majority Hindu population, unlike the rest of Indonesia. She was seen scrunching her face in disgust as she chewed on the pork skin, appearing not to like the dish in the video.
The video amassed millions of views and severe criticism, which eventually prompted another Indonesian to report the influencer to the police, complaining that Lutfiawati consciously uttered the Islamic phrase before consuming pork skin despite the food being forbidden in the religion of Islam.
Indonesian police charged the influencer in May 2023 for inciting hateful information based on religion, which violated the country’s strict blasphemy laws. Authorities claimed that Lina Lutfiawati’s video was an act of hostility towards religion, ethnicity, and race. She is also facing a fine of $16,245, and her term in prison might be extended by three months unless she pays the amount in full.
Lina Lutfiawati's sentence following the viral pork video left Indonesians divided
Though eating pork is forbidden in Islam and most of the Muslim population in Indonesia considers it taboo, the meat is consumed by other non-Muslims in the country, including the ethnic Chinese and Hindu population.
“Bismillah,” the first phrase in Islam’s central religious text, the Quran, is considered significant and holy. Muslims often recite the phrase before eating. It is also used frequently as a generic declaration.
In Lina Lutfiawati’s video, she was trying a popular street food in Bali called “Babi Guling.” It consists of roasted pig served with rice and vegetables. As soon as her video started going viral, many conservative groups across Indonesia, including the country’s top Muslim clerical body, the Ulema Council, called for the ruling of the influencer on account of their blasphemy laws.
On Tuesday, September 19, Lutfiwati was found guilty of deliberately spreading information intended to incite hate or enmity based on religion among individual groups. The court ordered her two-year sentence along with the fine. After the trial, the influencer spoke to a local news station and said:
“I know that I am wrong but I did not expect this punishment.”
The reactions to Lina’s sentencing among the people of Indonesia have been divided so far. While many praised the judge and justified her actions as an act of blasphemy, others have criticized her jail sentence and noted that culprits convicted in corruption cases face much lower jail terms.
The blasphemy law of Indonesia, under which Lina Lutfiawati was charged, has long been criticized by human rights activists and groups in the country who claimed that this law often targets religious minorities.
Usman Hamid, the executive director of a human rights group, Amnesty International Indonesia, said that the country's religious majority has abused the blasphemy law to trample down people who disagree with their views.
“It contravenes Indonesia’s international obligations in relation to respect and protection for freedom of thought, conscience and religion or belief, freedom of opinion and expression,” he added.
In recent years, religious conservatism has increased in Indonesia, and human rights groups have warned the masses that authorities are weaponizing the blasphemy laws against religious minorities and people they deem to have insulted Islam.
In 2022, six employees at a Jakarta bar and restaurant chain were charged with blasphemy for promotions to offer free bottles of gin for men with the name Mohammad every Thursday.