Islamic body seeks gay film fest ban

Indonesia’s top Islamic body said Friday homosexuality is an abuse of human rights and demanded the government ban an ongoing gay and lesbian film festival.

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It also condemned foreign cultural centres for showing the films at private screenings, three days after angry Muslims held protests outside the venues.

“We reject the screening of the films which contain gay and homosexual lives as they are against Islamic and Indonesian cultural values,” Indonesia Ulema Council (MUI) chairman Ma’ruf Amin said.

“The foreign representatives including the German and French cultural centres must show their respect for our sovereignty. They should not bring their culture which goes against our local values,” he said.

The German Goethe Institute, the Japan Foundation, Erasmus House of The Netherlands and the French Cultural Centre are showing the films but were not involved in organising the festival, which is the work of local enthusiasts.

Q! is in its ninth edition and has become the biggest festival of its kind in Asia and the only one in the Muslim world, testifying to Indonesia’s reputation as a moderate and generally tolerant country.

But religious intolerance has been on the rise in recent years, with the authorities unable or unwilling to prevent vigilante outfits from attacking and intimidating minority groups in the name of Islam.

Voices of Islamic conservatism are growing louder and more strident.

Communications Minister Tifatul Sembiring on Wednesday posted comments on microblogging website Twitter blaming “perverted sex acts” for the spread of AIDS, and quoted a Koranic verse about stoning homosexuals.

In a statement, the Ulema Council said homosexuality was “against human rights because human rights were given by God basically for pairs of men and women to legally marry… Same-sex marriage is haram (forbidden)”.

Amin called on the government’s censorship body to “firmly ban” the festival, echoing similar calls from hardline extremists.

About 150 films from more than 20 countries including France, Japan and the Philippines are being shown during the month-long festival which began last Friday.

Homosexuality is technically legal in the country of 240 million people, 80 percent of whom are Muslims.

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