Debate on Morality Bill

May 22nd, 2006, in News, by

A review of recent news on the pornography and morality bill as thousands of Muslims rallied in Jakarta in support of it yesterday.

The demonstration in favour of the “Rancangan Undang-undang Antipornografi dan Pornoaksi (RUU APP)” was organised and attended by members of the following Islamic groups:

Majelis Ulama Indonesia (MUI), Muhammadiyah, Nahdlatul Ulama (NU), Persatuan Islam (Persis), Hizbut Tahrir Indonesia (HTI), Al Irsyad, Ikatan Da’i Indonesia (IKADI), Forum Betawi Rempug (FBR), Partai Keadilan Sejahtera (PKS), Dewan Dakwah Islamiyah Indonesia (DDII), Front Pembela Islam (FPI), and the Badan Kontak Majelis Taklim (BKMT).

Muslims rally in Jakarta
Muslims rally in Jakarta.

The members and supporters of the PKS formed the bulk of the crowd. Although PKS won only 7% in the 2004 elections nationally, they are particularly strong in Jakarta, having won 23% in the capital at the last election.

The march was billed as a show of strength by “sejuta umat”, a million of the faithful, however some estimates put the number of attendees at 10,000 only. As is customary on these occasions marchers were bussed in from mosques.

Those who strongly support the bill appear to fear that the legislation is going to be watered down by the parliament, as some MP’s get cold feet over some of the more draconian measures in the bill such as the ban on kissing in public. One of the orators, a leader of the Majelis Ulama Indonesia (MUI), Nazri Adlani, said:

Don’t hesitate to go through with it because the Muslim community has already shown its support, don’t step back from the lifting up of morality.
(Jangan ragu-ragu menyelesaikannya, karena umat Islam telah menegaskan dukungannya, jangan ada kata mundur untuk perbaikan moral dan akhlak.)

While Ismail Yusanto of the Hizbut Tahrir Indonesia (HTI), said that the proposed law must be in accordance with the fatwa concerning pornography issued by the Ulema Council and in accordance with sharia law. He railed against the possibility that the bill would be watered down and become more secular in nature, and lose the Islam-laden words “iman and taqwa” (faith and fear of God).

Previously Hilman Rasyad Syihab, a PKS MP and a member of the deliberating committee on the bill, had attempted to rally the troops by warning that its passing was no sure thing.

There is the possibility that the RUU will be postponed or even cancelled. Because of that I ask for the support and prayers of all Muslims.
(Kemungkinan RUU itu dihapus atau mungkin ditunda juga ada. Karena itu selaku pendukung segera disahkannya RUU tersebut, saya mohon dukungan dan doa dari seluruh kaum muslimin.)

For him the problem lay not in lack of political will but in procedural obstacles.

Other parties are strongly in favour of it. From the political angle the RUU is very strong. There are questions from people, why hasn’t the bill been passed?
(Tapi Fraksi dan partai lain sangat mendukung. Karena itu secara politik, RUU ini sangat kuat. Ada pertanyaan dari masyarakat yang mendukung, kok pengesahannya ditunda?)

He explained his support for the bill:

If something disturbs society then it is a criminal act. If it’s criminal then the problem has to handled properly and not just by the Islamic Defenders Front or the PKS alone. It has to be dealt with by all institutions of the state, the police, attorneys general, and the courts.
(Kalau mengganggu masyarakat, maka itu artinya tindakan kriminal. Karena merupakan tindakan kriminal, maka masalah ini harus ditangani secara serius dan tidak boleh ditangani oleh FPI atau bahkan PKS sendiri. Ini harus ditangani oleh institusi negara, polisi, kejaksaan dan pengadilan.)

Opposition to the bill has come primarily from Bali, North Sulawesi, Christians, artists, and also from those involved in the tourism industry. Tourism Minister Jero Wacik is on record as opposing the bill as is former president Megawati Soekarnoputri and her party, the PDI-P, the second largest in parliament. The Protestant party, PDS, also opposes the bill while the Muslim based PKB is split down the middle it appears.

The PKB draws its support primarily from members of the Nahdlatul Ulama, whose leader, as above, is a strong supporter of the bill. Some in the NU, like its Australian branch for example, have however advocated that its consideration be postponed pending a total revision.

Shinta Wahid, the wife of former PKB leader and president Gus Dur, is an opponent of the law and sees it as an attack on women’s rights.

Artists and performers, such as WS Rendra from the high culture end, have been forthright in their opposition. Rendra believes that the RUU APP is an attempt to force an anti-sexual or asexual view onto Indonesia and that this is unhealthy for society. For him, Islam, like all religions, is not anti-erotic. Some have seen the bill as part of the Arab way of seeing women as the source of forbidden lust, but for Rendra:

If I see a beautiful woman I thank God that he has created something so wonderful.
(Kalau saya lihat ada perempuan cantik, eh, Alhamdulillah, ada ciptaan Tuhan secantik ini)

While from the world of popular culture there is something of a split. Rhoma Irama, a veteran dangdut singer, is a firm supporter of the bill and has appeared at many events to support it. Inul Daratista, she of the sexy “drilling” dance, senses a threat to her income and freedom of dance expression, and also has been a seen at many rallies and so forth, on the opposite side to the aging hypocrite Irama however.

Much of the opposition has been organised by the “Aliansi Bhinneka Tunggal Ika”, the Unity in Diversity Alliance which is composed of mainly women’s and human rights groups. Yeni Rosa Damayanti, a women’s activist said at a meeting with parliamentarians:

The proposed law [attempts to] flatten/standardise Indonesian culture, replacing it with the culture of a certain perspective [Islam].
(RUU menyeragamkan kebudayaan Indonesia, digantikan dengan kebudayaan tertentu berdasarkan perspektif tertentu.)

Another “Aliansi Bhinneka Tunggal Ika” activist, Putu Wijaya from Bali, warned that the bill was a “human tsunami”.

We are faced with a tsunami made by man. But we can fight it because it’s a man-made thing.
(Kita dihadapkan oleh tsunami yang dibuat manusia. Tapi kita masih bisa melawan, karena ini adalah tsunami buatan manusia.)

Writer Goenawan Mohammad, at the same event, also made dire warnings of the consequences of the bill being passed:

We don’t want a tragedy here like which happened in Yugoslavia.
(Kita tidak ingin tragedi yang terjadi di Yugoslavia terjadi kembali di negeri ini.)

While Nahdlatul Ulama (NU) womens’ activist Musdah Mulia wondered

What’s wrong with my country?

and complained that lawmakers were too concerned with bedroom issues.

The Islamic “heretic” group Ahmadiyah believes that the bill is evidence of talibanisation in Indonesia.

It’s like there is an effort to bring Taliban ideas into Indonesia. Yeah it’s like the Taliban in Afghanistan.
(Sepertinya ada upaya memasukkan aliran Taliban ke Indonesia. Ya itu seperti Taliban yang ada di Afganistan.)

said Mubarik Ahmad.

Some of the most vocal supporters of the bill are small, radical Islamic groups and the loudness of their voices is in great disproportion to their numbers. “Kesatuan Visi Umat Islam” (Kuvi) has held demonstrations for the bill attended by about 500 people. A larger rally was held in the city of Solo in central Java, well known as a hotbed of Islamic radicalism. One orator at the Solo rally explained:

To all leaders of the Islamic community we affirm that pornography and indecency are forms of sin that the country must immediately overcome.
(Kepada para ulama, pimpinan partai, ormas, pesantren, lembaga dakwah, pendidikan Islam, majelis taklim, dan segenap komponen umat lainnya kami menegaskan bahwa pornografi dan pornoaksi serta berbagai kemaksiatan yang ada di negeri ini harus segera diberantas tuntas.)

Hizbut Tahrir Indonesia (HTI), also demand action on the bill.

The parliament must not move away from its original position of improving the morality of the nation by passing the RUU APP into law.
(DPR jangan sampai goyah dari niat awal untuk memperbaiki moral bangsa dengan pengesahan RUU APP menjadi UU.)

said Tengku Harun of the Riau branch of the HTI recently.

Meanwhile the chairman of the committee discussing the bill, Balkan Kaplale, says the bill has massive popular support.

More than 90 percent of the organisations and individuals which have contributed something to the Committee agree that the bill should become law.
(Lebih dari 90 persen ormas dan individu yang memberi masukan pada Pansus menyetujui disahkannya RUU ini menjadi UU).

And a few weeks later he said the bill was ready to be passed this June with about 90% of the articles already having been debated.

The largest party in the parliament, Golkar, is a supporter of the bill but the fears of the bill’s most vociferous supporters on the likelihood of it being watered down may be realised. Today the leader of Golkar, vice president Jusuf Kalla, said that while he supports the bill its provisions should be restricted to dealing with those who profit from pornography, such as magazine editors, rather than those who consume it or “do” it.

4 Comments on “Debate on Morality Bill”

  1. Rockstar says:

    I’d rather live with playboy readers than FPI members.

  2. rayner says:

    It is pity that expressions of violence either in the movies, or speech are not banned instead. Loving expressions of family intimacy, or other forms of expressing intimacy are harmless unlike violence.

    As an anthropologist traveling the world to see which cultures have the most harmonious and loving way of rearing their children. The Pacific Island cultures, or Polynesian are the ones which by loving and and a bonding manner of rearing their children are very peaceful and benign.

    Unless of course they are invaded by outsiders then they will use whatever means to protect themselves. Incidentaly, while individuals in Polynesia regard most pornography in the West as boring and of little interest they do not produce pornography of any kind.

    Loving, exotic images of the lovely women and men in their culture but expressions of violence such as S/M or other means of violence. No.

  3. Rob says:

    Strange that this post did not attract more attention in light of later posts on similar subject matter. Perhaps 206 was not the year for this debate?

  4. kiwibali says:

    what is the current news on the RUU-APP? i have been trying to find out the past week on the progress of it, to no avail. every single article is based on 2006, apart from a youtube doco by journeyman picture, i haven’t found any.

    my take on it; HIGHLY AGAINST IT! By passing out Indonesia will run the risk of further ethnic backlash, even separatist movements for independence from Indonesia will increase. this country is formed on the base of diversity, its the philosophical foundation of our great country.

    1. Belief in the one and only God (Ketuhanan yang Maha Esa) – not believe in one religion and one religion only (if that was the case, Indonesia will have half the size what they are now. some of the provinces will simply go by itself).

    2. Just and civilized humanity (Kemanusiaan yang Adil dan Beradab) – is it civilized to deprive people of their cultural heritage, to forcefully make them adhere to a law that in so many ways contradicts their way of life. A lot Indonesian feel offended by the so call ‘western influence’, how do they think the non-Muslim and moderate Muslim will feel about the ‘Arab influence’?

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