INDONESIA: Address porn, poverty Muslim leaders tell SBY

President Susilo discusses pornography and public welfare with national Muslim leaders

Jakarta Post
Tuesday, February 14, 2006
By Tony Hotland

Pornography and public welfare were the hot topics of an informal discussion between President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono and national Muslim leaders in a small Indonesian-Chinese mosque in Pasar Baru on Monday.

Sitting in a half-circle in the Lautze Mosque with an audience of journalists and mosque regulars, the President and Muslim leaders from Nahdlatul Ulama, Muhammadiyah and the Indonesian Council for Islamic Propagation discussed current issues.

However, a lack of amplification meant their discussions were inaudible for more than half an hour until a relaxed Yudhoyono was given a microphone.

Attending the discussion were Religious Affairs Minister Maftuh Basyuni, Indonesian Ulema Council (MUI) deputy head Din Syamsuddin, MUI official S. Amidan and NU leaders Masdar Mashudi and Said Agil Siraj.

The Muslim leaders said they were concerned about the proliferation of pornography in print and electronic media and urged Yudhoyono to do something about it.

They also warned the President that people had been hard hit by the inflation caused by the fuel price hikes and reminded him of the need to take into account the poor masses when creating national policies.

"There have been frequent price hikes, but the incomes of most people remain the same. As if to add insult to injury, we then hear about state officials and legislators enjoying salary increases," Council for the Spread of Islam head Husein Umar said.

The leaders also said the controversy over the Ahmadiyah sect, whose members recognize another prophet after Muhammad, should be handled constitutionally. Ahmadiyah followers have been attacked and driven from their houses of worship on several occasions because of their beliefs.

Expressing his gratitude to the leaders for meeting with him, Yudhoyono said pornography did not have to be part of media freedoms.

"The Constitution says that human rights are absolute unless they contravene accepted values of decency and norms, or impinge on matters of security and public order."

While pornography was a problem, the content of some tabloid TV shows, with their gratuitous, often unsavory treatment of stories also posed a threat to public morality, he said.

Yudhoyono talked at length about the government's fight against corruption, which he said if successful would increase public welfare.

"We're still using an old system that needs to be changed. If we can save the money lost on corruption, certainly we can improve people's wellbeing."

The government was also committed to the Millennium Development Goals to reduce poverty, he said.

The meeting was told Din Syamsuddin had suggested the mosque as the discussion forum. Din later presented a statue of famous Chinese explorer Cheng Ho to the mosque.

Established by Karim Oei, the Lautze Mosque first opened in 1991 as a study center for Indonesian-Chinese who wished to convert to Islam. Karim's son, Ali Karim, now runs it.