Tens of thousands of conservative Muslims rallied in the Indonesian capital Sunday in support of a proposed anti-pornography bill that critics say would chip away at the country’s secular traditions.
The protesters, who arrived in buses organized by mosques and conservative Islamic groups, urged parliament to immediately pass the bill, which in its current form would ban kissing in public — as well as erotic poetry, dancing, drawing, writing, photos and film.
Organizers said 1 million people would attend the demonstration. Turnout appeared far less than that, perhaps 100,000, but it was still one of the largest shows of force by conservative Islam in recent years.
The protest shut down main roads in the capital for several hours as the demonstrators made their way to the parliament building, which was guarded by hundreds of police officers, some in riot gear.
'Down with liberalism and secularism'
Some demonstrators carried banners calling for the imposition of Islamic law in the country, which is home to some 190 million Muslims — more than any other country in the world — but also has significant Christian, Hindu and Buddhist minorities.
“Ban pornography and stop the sex industry,” they shouted. “Down with liberalism and secularism,” read one banner in support of the bill, which has become a rallying call for the country’s growing hardline fringe.
The bill, which was originally drafted in 1999 following the downfall of ex-dictator Suharto, is facing opposition from nationalist lawmakers, who form a majority in the house, and is unlikely to pass as in its current form.
Those opposed to the bill include the country’s minority faiths, liberal Muslim groups, artists and several outlying regions which fear their traditional dances and culture may be criminalized.
They note the country already has laws banning pornography, and say that the police, long accused of taking bribes from criminals trying to avoid arrest, should simply enforce them better.
Indonesian Muslims follow a moderate form of the faith, but many believe that the state should crack down on the sale of pornographic VCDs and magazines, which are readily available for sale throughout country.