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Indonesia: Instagram Account with Gay Muslim Comics Goes Dark

Rina Chadijah
Jakarta
2019-02-12
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A man opens the Instagram account of @alpantuni on his computer in Jakarta, Feb. 12, 2019.
A man opens the Instagram account of @alpantuni on his computer in Jakarta, Feb. 12, 2019.
Rina Chadijah/BenarNews

An Instagram account featuring comic strips about a Muslim gay man’s struggles went dark early Wednesday (Jakarta time), just days after the Indonesian government demanded that the social media site remove it over public concerns in the largest Islamic-majority country.

BenarNews could not determine if the person responsible for the @alpantuni account took the account offline or if Instagram responded to the government’s demand. Instagram’s press office did not immediately respond to an email seeking clarification.

On Tuesday, Indonesia’s Ministry of Communication and Information Technology said Instagram had not responded to a Feb. 2 letter demanding that the account be blocked for causing public unease, government spokesman Ferdinandus Setu said.

“We don’t know why it has taken so long. We need an explanation from them,” he told BenarNews.

The account, which had more than 6,000 followers before it went dark, listed its bio as “gay Muslim comics for people who can think.” It featured 13 comic strips containing Indonesian text, including one depicting two men having sex.

Another post showed the character named Alpantuni telling himself that he would have been happier had he chosen to come out instead of leading a double life.

Homosexuality is not a crime in Indonesia except in Aceh province where Sharia law is in force.

Rudiantara, the minister of communication and information technology, had said the government was heeding requests from the public that the account be removed.

LGBT attacks

In recent years, the rhetoric and actions of some government officials and local leaders have fanned an uproar against the country’s lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) community.

The communications ministry blocked thousands of websites containing pornographic content, as part of the government’s “healthy internet” campaign.

In addition, police have raided places frequented by gay people and briefly detained hundreds suspected of being homosexual. Officers filed charges against some of them for committing prostitution or pornographic acts.

The Pariaman city government, in West Sumatra province, recently issued a bylaw of a public order that includes a fine of up to 1 million rupiah (U.S. $71) for LGBT activities. The regulation contained clauses to penalize LGBT people “who conduct activity that disturbs public order” or commit “immoral acts with the same-sex,” according to a media report citing the by-law.

Last year, the government of Cianjur regency in West Java issued a circular urging Muslim preachers to talk during their Friday sermons about the “dangers” of homosexuality.

Most of the country sees the LGBT community as a threat, according to a 2017 survey by Jakarta-based Saiful Mujani Research and Consulting. The survey showed that 85.4 percent of the nation felt threatened by LGBT people – a figure which increased to 87.6 percent three months later.

Additionally, 79.1 percent of respondents objected to having LGBT neighbors. Despite those concerns, 57.7 percent of Indonesians believed that LGBT members had rights and about 50 percent believed the government was obligated to protect them, according to the survey.

Almost exactly a year ago, Feb. 8, 2018, Indonesian lawmakers, who were following the advice of Muslim clerics, sought to approve a set of revisions to the country’s penal code that would criminalize extramarital sex and gay sex.

While the revisions never passed, then-U.N. human rights chief Zeid Ra’ad al-Hussein and parliamentarians from Southeast Asian countries called on Indonesia to not inflame discrimination against LGBT people and others.

“At a time when it is consolidating its democratic gains, we urge Indonesians to move forward – not backward – on human rights and resist attempts to introduce new forms of discrimination in law,” Zeid said on the final day of his three-day trip to Indonesia’s capital.

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