05/22/2009, 00.00
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Indonesian Muslims: the Facebook “virus” is lethal

The social network provokes “illicit dreams” and “flirting” with people of the opposite sex. Indonesia ranks fifth in the world for membership counting for 4% of the global total. The President of the Ulema Council ready to launch a “total ban”.

Jakarta (AsiaNews) – Experts in Islamic law in Indonesia have launched a campaign against Facebook. The popular social network, which has won over millions of people throughout the world, apparently favours “illicit dreams” among young people, including the chance to “flirt” with friends of the opposite sex and have “illicit relationships” with married couples.

With its whole population of 235 millions, Indonesia has registered a boom in Facebook users:  in 2008 with 831 thousand users, a growth of 645% compared to last year.  Indonesians represent 4% of global users, taking fifth place behind the United States, the United Kingdom, France and Italy.

On May 21st last – in Lirboyo Female Educational Boarding House Institution, in Kediri East Java – a meeting was held by 700 experts in Islamic law.  They described the social network as a “potential threat” comparing its diffusion among young Indonesians to a “lethal virus”.  According to Institute spokesman Nabil Haroen, a new fatwa on this virtual networking is urgently needed: “Lust and illicit sex – he affirms - is forbidden in Islam”. He adds that Facebook should not be banned but used instead to promote “Islamic values”.

Any eventual “edict” against the social network – as in the past against yoga, smoking and voting for non Islamic candidates – would be the equivalent of indicating the moral behaviour of practising Muslims and would not have legal consequences.  The situation could deteriorate if the crusade against Facebook is approved of by the powerful Indonesian Ulemas Council (MUI). Amidan, President of Mui, explains that “very fast growing use” creates “is a controversial subject among Muslim leaders” and “easily stirs youngster to practice illicit behaviour”. He does not exclude the possibility of a “total ban”, because “a ban would be more effective”.

Children rights activist Seto Mulyadi has also broached the subject, inviting parents to keep their children “away” from Facebook, because it could damage their growth: “Parents – he clarifies - should keep the balance between virtual communication and interpersonal communication”.

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