Islamic extremists in Jakarta gave the publishers of
Playboy a seven-day ultimatum to withdraw a new Indonesian
edition of the magazine when it was launched today in the world's
most populous Muslim nation.
But the threat of violence was just part of the cacophany, as
radio call-in shows, newspapers and websites in the Indonesian
capital hummed with the excitement and moral opprobrium that have
accompanied the publication of the magazine's 18th international
Like the other regional versions, Indonesia's form of the
iconic, soft-porn, hard-interview magazine is tailored to local
Today's edition ó featuring a bright red cover, a study of East
Timor since independence and an interview with Pramoedya Ananta
Toer, the bestselling Indonesian author ó did not feature full
nudity and paled next to the garish locally-made pornography
available from hawkers and video-sellers in Jakarta.
But that did not stop a delegation of around two dozen members
of the Islamic Defenders Front, a hardline faction known for
offering violent solutions to moral problems, protesting at the
offices of Playboy's Indonesian publishers.
"If within a week they are still active and sell the magazine,
we will take physical action," said Muhammad Alawi Usman, a
spokesman for the group. "Playboy is not suitable for
reading because its contents degrade women."
Another leader, Tubagus Muhamad Sidik, told Reuters the word
Playboy, with its connotations of debauchery, was insult
enough. "Even if it had no pictures of women in it, we would still
protest it because of the name," he said. "If they donít withdraw
it then we will act in our own way, the forceful way. Our crew
will clearly hound the editors."
Condemnation of Playboy's plan to launch in Indonesia,
an archipelago of 13,000 islands with nearly 200 million Muslim
citizens, has been widespread since it was announced earlier this
year. In February, Indonesia's President, Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono,
questioned whether a local edition would benefit the nation.
Muslim leaders have called Playboy "moral terrorism".
But banning the magazine has proved problematic because
Indonesia has a free press, and only vague laws governing
pornography. Today, the country's Youth and Sports Minister,
Adhyaksa Dault, a member of one of Indonesia's Islamic parties,
said he was in talks to try and control what he called the
"I have coordinated with the Minister of Information," he said.
"We would like to see the contents first. We must find a way to
cool down the situation."
And then there is the demand. Although some newsstand owners in
Jakarta said they were afraid to sell the magazine because they
feared reprisals, others said it could compete well alongside the
city's tabloid newspapers and other western men's magazines, like
FHM, that have already landed in the country.
"This magazine is going to be popular," said one vendor, who
gave his name as Herbert. "People are only hearing the name and
allowing their blood to boil."
In fact there were reports today of entirely unexpected
complaints: that after all the fuss, Playboy was a
let-down. On sale at 39,000 rupiah (about £2.50), the magazine
costs twice the average daily wage in Indonesia, and disappointed
buyers called Jakartaís 68H radio station to say they had expected
"Itís sinful to read Playboy if thereís no nudity!"
said one caller.
"Itís a scandal! Thereís no nude women in the magazine. I think
we have been deceived," said another.