News and Commentary

Instagram Deletes Gay Muslim Comic Strip After Indonesia Protests

A comic featuring gay Muslim characters has disappeared from Instagram after officials in Muslim-majority Indonesia threatened to ban the social media platform from the country entirely, reports The New York Times,

“The Instagram account, @Alpantuni, first appeared in January with the tagline,'” the Times reported. ” Its Indonesian-language comics addressed gay identity and religious bigotry, and depicted men with their shirts off and in bed together, though never fully nude.”

Various Islamic officials in the country condemned the comic for promoting blasphemy and pornography, demanding it be taken off the platform.

“God created humans as man and woman, a couple, and there is no third sex,” Muhyiddin Junaidi, a representative of the Council of Ulemas, a quasi-governmental body of Muslim scholars, told the Times. “For us, being L.G.B.T. is a psychological illness that needs to be cured, and this comic is promoting it,” he added. “That will ruin the people’s faith in the long term.”

Earlier this month, the country’s Information Ministry sent Instagram a letter, advising the company that the comic violates pornography distribution laws. Ferdinandus Setu, a ministry spokesman, threatened the company with expulsion if the comic continued..

“Mr. Setu said that the post was removed early on Wednesday and that Instagram had taken down an account with a nearly identical name a few weeks earlier, at the ministry’s request,” the report continued. “But Instagram said on Wednesday that it had decided not remove the @Alpantuni account, which had nearly 6,000 followers, after determining that it had not violated the company’s ‘community guidelines.'”

Ching Yee Wong, Instagram’s head of Asia-Pacific communications, told The New York Times that other factors may have contributed to the account no longer being accessible. Speculation is the account was based in Malaysia.

“There are a number of other reasons why an account may no longer be accessible, including, for example, if the account holder deleted the account, deactivated the account or changed the account user name,” he said.

Though the @Alpantuni site remains dormant, other Instagram users have been reposting the comic.

According to NBC News, Human Rights Watch’s Indonesia researcher Andreas Harsono said Indonesia’s censorship of the account highlights the country’s broader problem.

“That account describes mostly the problems of gay individuals in Indonesia. It’s no secret that many LGBT individuals are arrested, their houses raided, some are sentenced to prison terms,” he said. “The Indonesian government does not help them in demanding the removal of that account.”

Instagram is not the only digital platform to face regulatory threats from an Islamic government. Just last month, Netflix caved to the demands of the Saudi Arabian government by preventing an episode of “Patriot Act” with Hasan Minhaj from streaming within the country. Netflix removed the episode after the Saudi government cited a local statute it allegedly violated. Article 6 of that law says that “production, preparation, transmission, or storage of material impinging on public order, religious values, public morals, and privacy, through the information network or computers” is a crime.

Violators of that law could be punished by a maximum of five years in prison and be fined as much as $800,000. Since Netflix always complies with local laws in foreign countries, the streaming service ultimately gave the Saudi government what it wanted.

The episode can still be viewed on YouTube since the Saudi government never requested it be removed from that platform.

The Daily Wire   >  Read   >  Instagram Deletes Gay Muslim Comic Strip After Indonesia Protests