10/30/2008, 00.00
INDONESIA
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The Indonesian parliament adopts anti-pornography bill

by Mathias Hariyadi
MPs present voted unanimously for the bill. Opposition parties did not however participate in the vote. Dissent explodes in online forums. A Jakarta court sentences an Islamic fundamentalist leader to jail for fomenting clashes last June.
 

Jakarta (AsiaNews) – With opposition MPs absent, Indonesia’s parliament approved an anti-porn bill that was welcomed by supporters who loudly rejoiced with prayers to Allah. In online newspaper forums many ordinary citizens reacted angrily however, slamming what they consider a step backward for Indonesia and an “obscurantist” decision.

Today the lower house in Indonesia’s parliament approved the controversial anti-pornography bill, known in Bahasa Indonesia as Undang-undang Pornografi, Uu App. Since it was tabled it has been at the centre of intense discussions because it is seen as a step towards introducing Sharia law into the country’s legal system along the lines of Saudi Arabia.

In recent weeks human rights activists and representatives of political and religious minorities, including the Catholic Church, have strenuously objected to the law.

According to its critics, the law eliminates “cultural” differences and undermines “national unity”. As it stands it is all but an attempt by Muslim fundamentalists to introduce Islamic law into the country’s legal system.

The anti-porn law was approved almost unanimously but MPs for the Indonesian Democracy Struggle Party (PDIP) and the Christian-based Prosperous Peace Party (PDS) were not in the house in protest against the bill.

A supporter of the new law named Lasmiantini, a member of a group called Salima or Muslim Sisters, felt great about it.

“Inshallah, God willing, Indonesia shall finally see the rebirth of morality,” she said.

“We are happy,” she added, “because we won the battle to defend our children and it [the law] will also protect women.”

“Educational TV programmes” will be promoted “to improve moral values as the basis of society.

Pro-law activists said that the legislation can be improved to “avoid excesses”, denying at the same time that negative views were expressed “against the bill in some provinces.”

Meuthia Hatta, daughter of Mohammad Hatta, one of Indonesia’s founding fathers, noted that the law “does not violate the principles of freedom of expression” but instead protects people from the harm done by pornography.

“Our focus was on this aspect rather than on political squabbles with nationalist groups and NGOs,” said the minister of for Woman Empowerment.

In the meantime a court in Jakarta issued an important ruling in the fight against Islamic fundamentalism.

Judge Panusunan Harahap sentenced Habib Rizieq Shihab, head of the Islamic Defenders Front (FPI), to 18 months in jail for “fomenting clashes in Jakarta last 1 June between radical Muslims and moderates, who were demonstrating in favour of religious freedom in the country.”

At that time Muslim fundamentalists attacked moderate Muslims from the National Alliance for Religious Freedom (AKKBB), who were peacefully demonstrating in support of the Ahmadis, a small Muslim community (about half a million) who are considered heretical in several Muslim countries like Pakistan and Saudi Arabia.

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