Indonesian Muslims furious over Playboy

"Pornography. will only corrupt youth morals and bring catastrophes such as a rise in rape and sexual harassment," Chairman of Nahdlatul Ulama Muzadi warns.

January 25, 2006

Jakarta - Indonesian Muslims have reacted in fury over the planned debut of a local edition of raunchy magazine Playboy, fueling growing debate on pornography in the world's most populous Muslim nation.

"Playboy simply has no place in our social norms and culture," Hasyim Muzadi, the chairman of Nahdlatul Ulama, Indonesia's largest Muslim organization, told AFP on Sunday, January 22.

"Indonesia is not Europe or America, whose culture and reaction towards nudity are totally different than ours," he maintained.

Ponti Carrolus, director of PT Velvet Silver Media which holds the Indonesian license from the US-based magazine, vowed on Friday to go ahead with the launch of the local version of Playboy despite growing protests.

He argued that the magazine will dramatically tone down the Playboy's erotic photographs.

"Pornography, regardless of how it is being disguised, will only corrupt youth morals and bring catastrophes such as a rise in rape and sexual harassment," Muzadi warned.

Indonesia is the most populous Muslim state with a population of 220 million, 80% of them are Muslims.

Founded in 1953, Playboy has about 20 local editions around the world that cater to local taste rather than simply exporting and translating its US content.

Legalizing

Irfan Awwas, the chairman of the Indonesian Mujahedin Council, echoed a similar warning.

"It will be disastrous for Indonesia," he told AFP.

"The publication of Playboy as we know it will further destroy the nation's morality."

Muzadi, whose organization claims more than 40 million members, urged the Indonesian authorities to revoke the license for Playboy and other raunchy magazines in the country.

"Legalizing Playboy to circulate in Indonesia is tantamount to legalizing pornography, which is already pretty much uncontrollable due to the circulation of pirated DVDs and VCDs and the Internet," he said.

Porn discs are readily, if discreetly, available across the capital Jakarta for as little as 6,000 rupiah ($60 cents).

In recent years, lifestyle magazines have flooded Indonesia's markets, including those targeting a male audience.

Many are franchises of foreign publications in the United States, Europe, Australia and more liberal Asian nations.

FHM Indonesia, Sexy, Marta and Popular are but some of the more daring men's magazines on sale along Jakarta's busy streets.

Many of these titles hit the streets after the wave of liberalization that swept through Indonesia in 1999 after the fall of Suharto.

Media Standards

Leo Batubara, a senior member of the Indonesian Press Council, said critics should reserve judgment until they see how Playboy fits into "Indonesia's modern and acceptable social norms."

His fellow council member R.H. Siregar was also in favor of the magazine's publication, saying it would be unfair to ban it.

He urged the publisher to "consult religious groups and explain their format and intention."

The ongoing debate on Playboy comes as Indonesian lawmakers prepare to pass a wide-ranging law on pornography.

One of article in the bill stipulates jail terms of up to seven years for "acts and publication of acts deemed indecent or sexually arousing."

Another legislates a similar jail term for people caught kissing in public or dancing in "arousing movements."

Batubara said that the council, which has no legal power to revoke licenses but is often consulted by the parliament to discuss media-related issues, will try to persuade lawmakers not to include the two articles.

"Lawmakers cannot seem to make up their mind on how to categorize movies, publications and even our 'dangdut' shows, which do not show full-frontal nudity but reveal women posing and acting in semi-erotic fashion," he said.

The hugely popular dangdut features traditional Indonesian music with strong Indian and Arabic influences.

Batubara charged that many lawmakers have no real understanding and knowledge of what is pornography.

"They just want to issue a law but they do not want to give a damn about its impact on our socially and culturally complex society."

He said the state body was still arguing with MPs over an "acceptable Indonesian media standard of what is deemed to be morally accepted and what is not."


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2005 Asian Sex Gazette.
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