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Sep 1, 2010
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Indonesian court orders Jakarta Buddha Bar shut after blasphemy complaint

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(Photo: Buddha Bar Restaurant in Jakarta, December 4, 2008/Beawiharta)

The Indonesian branch of the Buddha Bar, an international chain of upmarket bars, has been ordered to close because its name caused distress to Buddhists, local media reported on Wednesday.

The English language newspaper Jakarta Globe reported that Central Jakarta District Court on Wednesday ordered the owners of the bar, Nireta Vista Creative, to close down immediately.

Jun 21, 2010
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Indonesia’s Islamist party: hijabs, uniforms and a Hitler tweet

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Jakarta’s Ritz Carlton hotel this weekend was a sea of brightly coloured Islamic headscarves and the crisp white uniforms of the Islam-based Prosperous Justice Party (PKS), the third biggest party in President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono’s cabinet. PKS held their national congress at the luxury hotel

, the site of a deadly July 2009 bomb attack perpetrated by Islamist militants,

and the topic on everyone’s lips was how to broaden the party’s appeal and shake off their image as hardliners.

Jun 18, 2010
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Indonesian Islamist PKS party aims for broader support

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Indonesia’s Prosperous Justice Party (PKS) is holding its second national congress in Jakarta this week where it will discuss key policies.  The Islamist party is the third-biggest in President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono’s coalition, and lifted its share of the vote in the 2009 elections when most Islam-based parties lost support.

The PKS believes religious values should be reflected in social policy to address what it sees as Indonesia’s moral crisis. Its former president, Communications and Information Minister Tifatul Sembiring, has campaigned hard for tighter Internet controls to ban what he describes as “negative” content on the web, and last year said natural disasters such as earthquakes were linked to immoral television shows.

Mar 18, 2010
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Obama’s boyhood Jakarta home district sees shift to stricter Islam

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Indonesian Muslims pray at the Istiqlal Grand Mosque in Jakarta 9 March/Supri

Some things in the central Jakarta district of Matraman have barely changed since the late 1960s, when United States President Barack Obama lived and played there.  Old men train their racing pigeons on the badminton court and screaming children chase each other through the winding, grimy alleyways. But if Obama does decide to drop by his old neighborhood when he visits Indonesia next week, he may notice change around the community’s mosque.

The local mosque has become a meeting spot for members of the small but vocal Islamic Defenders Front (FPI), an extremist group famous for smashing up bars that serve alcohol and which made headlines when its followers assaulted several elderly men and women at a peaceful interfaith rally in 2008.

Sep 29, 2009
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Artist takes on censorship, porn law amid Indonesia restrictions

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Indonesian artist Agus Suwage knows what it is like to run up against the religious conservatives. Four years ago, he was hauled into parliament, where lawmakers accused him of blasphemy and of producing pornography dressed up as art. Today, facing an even more restrictive climate in Indonesia, Suwage refuses to be silenced and has made those restrictions the focus of his art.His latest exhibition, which opened at the Singapore Tyler Print Institute this month, highlights what he sees as a growing conservatism in majority Muslim but officially secular Indonesia. Many of the works probably could not be shown at a big public exhibition space in Indonesia following the passage of a controversial anti-pornography law last year.“There are more important things to address in law than pornography, like education. But everyone wants to win a political point and on this issue the politics come easily,” Suwage told Reuters in an interview.Suwage’s latest works are a series of prints of female nudes overlaid with the actual text of Indonesia’s 2008 anti-pornography law, under which a person can be charged for any public activity that “incites sexual desire.”See the full feature here.
(Image: An Agus Suwage print “Behind the curtain” combining the text of Indonesia’s anti-pornography law with a female nude/Agus Suwage collection/Handout)

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Sep 18, 2009
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Indonesia’s sharia push may scare investors, moderates

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Recent moves in Indonesia, including plans by one province to stone adulterers to death, have raised concerns about the reputation of the world’s most populous Muslin country as a beacon of moderate Islam.The provincial assembly in the westernmost province of Aceh — at the epicenter of the Indian Ocean tsunami that killed 170,000 people there nearly five years ago — this week decreed the ancient Islamic penalty of stoning to death for adultery.
(Photo: Indonesian Muslim women support sharia, 19 Sept 2006?Supri Supri)

The decision could still be overturned once Aceh’s new parliament is sworn in next month. But many, including Aceh’s governor, the central government in Jakarta, and local businessmen, are concerned about the impact a broadcast public execution by stoning could have on Indonesia’s international reputation.The Aceh case is one of several showing how hardline Muslim groups are influencing policy in Indonesia. Local governments, given wide latitude to enact laws under Indonesia’s decentralization program, have begun to mandate sharia regulations, including dress codes for women.One ethnic Chinese Indonesian businessman, a practicing Christian who asked not to be quoted by name, said he feared if the trend continued it could lead to capital flight by the wealthy Chinese, Christian minority. “A lot of regional laws are going in that direction. It’s already alarming the way it’s going. It’s a minority who are doing this, but the problem is that the silent majority just keep silent.”Read the whole story here.

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