Indonesia’s IT Ministry threatens to block Instagram over comic strip depicting gay Muslim characters

A screenshot of a comic strip by Instagram user @alpantuni, who has received massive backlash in Indonesia for his comic strip series depicting gay Muslim characters.

Indonesia’s Information and Communications Ministry (Kominfo) says it has sent an official letter to Instagram demanding they block an account by a user posting self-drawn comic strips depicting gay Muslim characters in Indonesia. Responding to an outpouring of reports on social media from outraged Indonesians who deem the comics blasphemous and pornographic, the IT minister has even threatened to block all of Instagram from Indonesia if the social media company does not comply with the demand.

The Instagram user, known only by this point by the Instagram handle @alpantuni (who could be based in either Indonesia or Malaysia), has been the recipient of a massive moral backlash from Indonesian conservatives this week after they posted several comic strips criticizing homophobia from an Islamic viewpoint through the eyes of gay Muslim characters.

While told in comic form, the stories seem to be inspired by real, everyday stories about the discrimination and abuse members of Indonesia’s gay community have lived through. The author’s tagline for his comic strip series is, “Gay Muslim comics for people who are able to think.”

In one strip (seen above), one character speaks about his regret at never having come out to his family and the people closest to him. Now married, he’s living a lie and is distant from his wife. In another, one character lives through numerous heartbreaks at the hands of numerous men — who use him only for sex — before he transforms into a hardline religious figure angrily denouncing the LGBT community.

The comic strip also tackles the topic of religious bigotry. In one strip, a gay Muslim character is pelted with feces and dirt for being gay. When he denounces his religion to appease his critics, they continue pelting him with feces and dirt for being an infidel.

The comments on these strips are overwhelmingly hateful (and a pretty accurate reflection of the LGBT haters depicted in the comic itself), with many tagging the accounts of Indonesian authorities such as Kominfo’s in order to report the account for removal. Some users that follow the account have even reported receiving DMs from haters warning them to unfollow @alpantuni.

Kominfo says it was responding to the flood of reports regarding @alpantuni with their warning letter to Instagram. However, the ministry says the photo and video sharing social network has yet to respond.

“We are continually in process with Instagram,” Minister Rudiantara said, as quoted by CNN Indonesia yesterday.

“Now that Instagram is naughty, what are we to do? We are transparent — do they want to be shut down?”

Rudiantara added that Kominfo’s request to Instagram represents the will of the public.

“If I may plead, Instagram, please follow Kominfo’s request, because this is what the public wants,” he said.

We have reached out to @alpantuni for comment.

Kominfo has blocked a massive amount of content they have deemed to be “negative” in the past, as well as numerous platforms that host said content. Major Internet companies such as Google have complied with the Indonesian government’s requests to remove specific LGBT-related content in the past, such as when the ministry got the tech company to remove LGBT networking apps like Blued from the Google Play store in Indonesia.

While the ministry has blocked somewhat popular websites and platforms in Indonesia like Reddit and Tumblr in the past, it has threatened but never came around to actually blocking Internet giants like Google and Facebook over various infringements. It remains to be seen if Kominfo would actually be willing to block Instagram, considering the huge popularity the social media network has in Indonesia, and if the @alpantuni account will remain accessible (which, at the time of writing, it still is).

Also read: #UninstallGojek and the high cost of supporting LGBT rights in Indonesia


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