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Playboy sparks excitement in Muslim Indonesia

Playboy magazine may no longer rate on the sexual cutting edge in some places, but the first edition in Indonesia, the world’s most populous Muslim nation, caused a stir on Friday.
A newspaper hawker displays a copy of th
A newspaper hawker displays a copy of the first edition of the Indonesian version of Playboy magazine, along with other newspapers and magazines, while looking for customers along a street in downtown Jakarta, Indonesia, on Friday.Jewel Samad / AFP - Getty Images
/ Source: Reuters

Playboy magazine may no longer rate on the sexual cutting edge in some places, but the first edition in Indonesia, the world’s most populous Muslim nation, caused a stir on Friday.

Although the pictures inside showed less skin than U.S. issues 50 years ago, copies were being passed from desk to desk in Jakarta offices, high demand was reported, and newspapers and broadcasters dwelt at length on the Indonesian issue.

A leader of one militant Islamic group threatened to use force, if necessary, to get the magazine withdrawn.

Like the iconic original, the Indonesian Playboy included a serious interview, in-depth articles and color pictures of women, including a fold-out. But no nipples were exposed in the photos, let alone anything approaching full nudity.

“I didn’t see any surprising thing in this magazine. It depends on how people interpret it. For me, no problem,” Alex, a white-collar worker who did not to give his full name, told Reuters Television.

A 40-year-old housewife, Maya, disapproved. “Surely it is against the new anti-pornography law,” she said.

Condemnation also came from Chamammah Soeratno, head of the women’s wing of major Muslim moderate group Muhammadiyah.

“Everyone knows it’s a pornographic magazine. The first edition may not have any nudity. That’s a very clever move by the publishers,” she told Reuters.

Indonesia’s parliament is debating a law to significantly tighten control of media as well as public behavior in an effort to reduce what its proponents see as pornography.

Threat to editors
Indonesia has many magazines on news stands that go further than the new Playboy in the sexual content of their articles and at least as far in their pictures.

In fact, magazine and newspaper agent Azis, 41, told Reuters Playboy was not different enough from an existing upscale Indonesian men’s magazine, Matra.

But even months ago the Playboy image and its Western origin had already sparked protests at the mere news of plans for the Indonesian edition, despite promises of a tame version.

Around 85 percent of Indonesia’s 220 million people follow Islam. Although most are moderates, there is a growing tendency toward showing Islamic identity and conservative attitudes.

The government is officially secular and tolerant of other religions, and pressure to make laws more in line with orthodox beliefs has been a regular source of controversy in recent years.

Some militant groups have taken things into their own hands on occasion by, for example, attacking unlicensed churches and bars selling alcohol during the Muslim fasting period.

“I am afraid to sell the first edition because it has been reported that the Islamic organizations would be on alert,” said newscounter owner Ronni, 30, who operates near the headquarters of a hard-line Muslim group, the Islamic Defenders’ Front (FPI).

“I am afraid that after we take the copies from the agent, (militants) will confiscate them,” he told Reuters.

Tubagus Sidiq, a senior leader of FPI, told Reuters: “FPI opposes (Playboy) in whatever form.”

“According to our commitment, if they don’t withdraw it then we will act in our own way, the forceful way. Our crew will clearly hound the editors ... We even oppose the name Playboy.”

Despite regular campaigns against pornography, many sidewalk vendors in Indonesia stock sexually explicit movies and the country has a flourishing sex industry.

Founded in 1953, Playboy has about 20 editions around the world that cater to local taste.