Indonesia’s leading Muslim clerical body met Tuesday to discuss a proposal to declare a fatwa (religious edict) over violent video games, amid concerns that such entertainment may have influenced a man suspected of killing 50 people in a gun rampage at two New Zealand mosques.
The Indonesian Council of Ulema (MUI) said it was reviewing games such as PUBG (PlayerUnknown’s Battlegrounds) to determine whether it should issue a fatwa regulating their use among the country’s Muslim majority. Fatwas are not legally binding but carry moral weight with devout Muslims.
“We are of the view that PUBG is a factor in the criminal acts of terrorism in New Zealand, but it’s obviously not as simple as that,” Asrorun Ni’am Sholeh, the secretary of MUI’s fatwa commission, told reporters after the meeting.
“This is an opportunity to better regulate [such games].”
PUBG and similar games have come into the spotlight in Indonesia and other countries in the wake of the Christchurch massacre, which the suspect allegedly live-streamed on social media. Some of the footage eerily resembled action scenes from a graphic, first-person shooter video game.
At least 20 million Indonesians play PUBG, a local e-sport official said.
PBUG is a battle royale game that allows up to 100 players to fight for survival. The last surviving player or team wins. The game can be played on a range of devices including mobile phones, Xbox and PlayStation.
“We plan to come up with guidelines on the use of games as a technology product so that it will provide more benefits to users and the community. It could be modeled after the fatwa on social media,” Asrorun said.
Five Bangladeshis, an Indonesian and a Malaysian were among those killed in the mass shootings in Christchurch on March 15.
New Zealand’s government immediately branded the attack, carried out allegedly by an Australian white supremacist, as a terrorist act.
The suspect, Brenton Tarrant, 28, grew up with computers and was addicted to violent video games, Australian media reported.
Tarrant also urged viewers to “subscribe to PewDiePie,” the nickname of Felix Kjellberg, a Swedish video game influencer who has 91 million subscribers on YouTube, reports said.
‘We cannot close our eyes’
Indonesia’s National Counterterrorism Agency (BNPT) has not commented publicly on the fatwa issue, but MUI said it would consult the agency.
The potential move by the Indonesian clerical body came after a senior Muslim religious leader, Mohd Yusof Ahmad, the mufti of Negeri Sembilan state in Malaysia, last week called for a ban on PUBG to prevent a repeat of the attack in New Zealand, according to a Malaysian media report.
Meanwhile on Tuesday, Indonesia’s communications and information ministry said it intended to explore the idea of regulating the PUBG and other videos game by imposing limits on playtime in the country, the Jakarta Post reported.
However, according to Asrorun, the MUI also views e-sports as a positive thing because they can teach children competitive skills through video-game contests.
“But we cannot close our eyes [to the fact] that some video games have negative content,” he said, citing a report from the Indonesian Child Protection Commission that addiction to video games could cause erratic and violent behavior in youths.
Gamers weigh in
The president of the Indonesian E-Sports Association, Eddy Lim, who attended the meeting convened by MUI on Tuesday, said participants concurred that video games with violent or pornographic content should be restricted.
Eddy said he fully supported MUI’s initiative to have a role in reviewing games and possibly issue a fatwa on them.
“If they say, after a review, that a game is negative, then we will have no objections to it being banned,” Eddy said.
But Eddy believes PUBG is a stimulating game that is not too violent.
“It is more of a game of strategy. In terms of violence, it is rather small,” he said.
“PUGB is played by 20 million to 30 million people in Indonesia. If it was a bad influence, there could have been many cases of terrorism,” he said.
Other Indonesian game enthusiasts agreed with Eddy about PUBG.
“It’s funny, why PUBG? There are many other games that are far more violent than PUBG,” Andrue told BenarNews.
The attack in Christchurch had nothing to do with video games, he added.
“Terrorists have existed since before there were video games,” he said.
For Andrue, who started playing PUBG two years ago, the game has its benefits.
“We can get to know and communicate with other people. You can be friends with people from abroad. [This game] can also be a source of income because it is a form of e-sport,” he said.
“The game isn’t to blame. People are to blame.”
Akbar Rochyadi, another video gamer, was among those supporting a fatwa on PUBG.
“It’s addictive, makes people too lazy to study, [and] makes it difficult to concentrate on their studies,” he told Benar.
“The most dangerous thing is it teaches violence to children,” he said.