April 6, 2006

Tame Playboy sparks excitement in Muslim Indonesia

By Jerry Norton

JAKARTA (Reuters) - Playboy magazine may no longer rate as
on the sexual cutting edge in some places, but the first
edition in Indonesia, the world's most populous Muslim nation,
was causing a stir on Friday.

Although the pictures inside showed less skin than even
early U.S. issues 50 years ago, copies were being passed from
hand to hand in Jakarta offices among Muslims and Christians
alike. High demand was reported, and newspapers and
broadcasters dwelt at length on the Indonesian issue.

Like the iconic original, the magazine 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.

However, a 40-year-old housewife, Maya, said she disagreed
with the idea of Playboy, adding: "Surely it is against the new
anti-pornography law."

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.

The original draft included a ban on kissing in public but
it is not clear if that will survive in the final version.

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, but the Playboy image
and its Western origin sparked protests by militant Islamic
groups when news first broke that an Indonesian edition was in
the works.

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

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

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 hardline 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. "Demand for
the copies is actually high and customers have been asking for
it for a long time. When things are quiet, I think I'll sell

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

In recent years, lifestyle magazines for Indonesia's
growing secular middle class have flooded the market, including
those targeting a male audience.

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

(With additional reporting by Heru Asprihanto and Telly