Ban on Porn, Prostitutes, Fireworks Promises a Quiet Start to Ramadan

By webadmin on 12:29 am Aug 11, 2010
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Ismira Lutfia, Zaky Pawas, Amir Tejo & Dofa Fasila

Indonesia. On Tuesday, the eve of Islam’s holiest month, various officials separately announced bans on pornographic sites, prostitutes and firecrackers — things that can distract Muslims from faithfully observing Ramadan in peace.

No Offensive Sites

Following up on his promise of a porn-free Ramadan, Communication and Information Technology Minister Tifatul Sembiring said he was confident that 80 percent of all “offensive sites” on the Internet in Indonesia were now inaccessible, including some of the most popular: Playboy.com, 17tahun.us, youporn.com, porn.com and comicmuhammad.blogspot.com.

“These five top-rated Web sites were just taken as samples, but we estimate that qualitatively we have banned 80 percent of offensive sites,” Tifatul said.

He added that the sites were chosen based on lists of most accessed sites on the ministry’s filtering system as well as those on Alexa.com, which ranks Web site visits.

The ministry worked with major Internet service providers Telkom, Bakrie Telkom, XL Axiata, Indosat, IndosatM2 and Telkomsel to block the sites the government deemed offensive.

Tifatul acknowledged that the government would not be able to immediately impose a complete ban on Internet pornography, but added that online filtering was an ongoing and dynamic process.

He said the ministry would adopt the same approach used by YouTube, which involves constantly monitoring offensive content which, when discovered, is immediately removed.

The same method will also be used in the future to filter out other offensive sites related to blasphemy, gambling, online fraud and violence, Tifatul said. “But we are focusing on the pornographic [sites] first.”

He emphasized that the ban had a strong legal basis, citing the 1999 Telecommunications Law, the 2008 Information and Electronic Transaction Law (ITE) and the 2008 Anti-Pornography Law.

“The definition of pornography is not debatable anymore” since the Constitutional Court overturned a judicial review of the Anti-Pornography Law, Titaful added.

No Prostitutes

In Surabaya, Dolly, one of Southeast Asia’s largest red-light districts, is now quiet, with brothel doors bearing signs saying “Closed for Ramadan.”

Sawahan Police Chief Adj. Comr. Widodo said the prostitutes working in Dolly had all returned to their hometowns following a city regulation that mandated brothels close up shop throughout the fasting month.

Asmiani, a staff member at Jaya Indah, told Detik.com that the brothel’s seven prostitutes would return to work a week after Idul Fitri celebrations on Sept. 10 and 11.

The signs went up the same day hard-line Muslim groups under the banner of the Islamic Believers Union (GUIB) conducted a sweep of the district. About 350 members of the group raided brothels in three popular areas in Surabaya, but all they found were locked doors and empty streets.

Still, they threatened to attack prostitution dens and other entertainment businesses that did not respect the Islamic holy month.

“If they do not respect Ramadan, they will be attacked,” said Habib Muhammad Mahdi Al Habsyi, the head of the Islamic Defenders Front (FPI) in Surabaya.

The FPI is one of the 32 organizations that make up GUIB.

Zulkarnain, the spokesman for East Java’s hard-line Jamaah Ansharut Tauhid, denied members of the group were terrorizing the area, saying they were only out to remind people to abstain from immoral acts.

“Please understand that this is a reaction to immoral activities legalized by the city administration. We are just spreading the message,” Zulkarnain said. “But if they keep operating during Ramadan, do not blame us if we attack them, as they are the ones who conduct moral terror.”

Bambang Budiono, the head of the Human Rights Study Center at Airlangga University, condemned the group’s actions, which he said were equivalent to “spreading terror in the name of Ramadan.”

No Firecrackers

Meanwhile in Jakarta, Governor Fauzi Bowo forbade the use of firecrackers during Ramadan after a car carrying 70 kilograms of fireworks exploded in Pluit, North Jakarta, injuring four.

“Every year people are victimized by incidents involving fireworks. Some of them suffer burns or even amputations,” he said. “These [incidents] force me to tighten law enforcement.”

Penjaringan Police Chief Comr. Lalu M Ichwan said the four injured when a Daihatsu Zebra pickup truck exploded at noon on Tuesday were employees of Toyindo Perkasa, which owned the fireworks.

Jakarta Police spokesperson Sr. Comr. Boy Rafli Amar said the fireworks were already expired and were meant to be destroyed in a nearby lake. “Those fireworks were already past their expiration dates,” Boy said. 

Lalu said the person in charge of getting rid of the fireworks would be questioned, as well as the victims once they recovered.