Morocco bans French magazine for insulting Islam

By HASSAN ALAOUI – Nov 2, 2008

RABAT, Morocco (AP) — The Moroccan government has banned an issue of the French magazine L'Express International, claiming it insults Islam in articles exploring the relationship between that religion and Christianity.

Information Minister Khalid Naciri said Sunday that he had no choice but to ban the current issue because of the offensive nature of the articles it contained. The minister said the kingdom's press code allows the government to shut down or ban any publication deemed to offend Islam or the king.

The cover of this week's L'Express is titled "The Jesus-Muhammad Shock" — also the title of a book by Christian Makarian, one of the magazine's chief editors.

The weekly said the series of articles was inspired by a meeting planned this week in Rome between Christian and Muslim scholars and is intended to "help the dialogue between Islam and Christianity."

Naciri did not specify exactly what was considered offensive, but told The Associated Press that "our country should not be used by anyone to spread articles that could be prejudicial to our religion or undermine public order,"

A statement on L'Express' Internet site said the magazine did not understand Morocco's reaction, particularly because pains had been taken to adhere to Islamic norms, notably by covering the face of Muhammad with a white veil in side-by-side cover portraits of Jesus and Islam's prophet, in line with Islamic law. The French edition leaves the face uncovered.

The articles provide broad outlines of the two monotheistic religions. One article comparing Jesus and Muhammad quotes verses from the Quran that it says show that the Muslim holy book "justifies violence toward those who refuse to obey Muslim law." It says that Muhammad the pacifist and Muhammad the warrior are united in one figure.

Morocco, a tourism haven and strong European and U.S. ally, has seen a rising tide of political Islam.

Makarian said on the Web site that L'Express is the only French magazine to issue a monthly supplement centered on Morocco, a former French colony.

"We were banned despite this particular attention that shows our respect for the Moroccan public and the Muslim faith," he said. "I don't understand."

The Information Ministry for Algeria, Morocco's neighbor, said it was not aware of the issue, while Tunisian officials did not return calls Sunday for comment.

Many members of the liberal elite in North Africa follow the French media because they have retained close cultural ties to France, the former colonial power in the region.

Morocco has shown sensitivity to how Islam is treated in the past. In 2006, Islamist parties and associations staged huge protests throughout Morocco after a Danish newspaper published a series of cartoons deemed offensive to the Prophet Muhammad. The cartoons caused protests across the Muslim world.

Associated Press Writer Elaine Ganley in Paris contributed to this report.


Muslims Unhappy Over Playboy Plans for Indonesia

By Patrick Goodenough International Editor
January 23, 2006

( - Plans to launch an Indonesian edition of Playboy magazine have set off a debate in the world's largest Muslim nation, prompting the local publisher to say the edition would be toned down and not contain nudity.

His assurances are unlikely to satisfy religious conservatives, however, who range from members of big, mainstream Muslim organizations to supporters of radical groups with a history of violent actions against targets they deem immoral.

In the years since the downfall of the Suharto regime in 1998, Indonesians have had significantly more access to titillating material, whether in the form of widely available "lifestyle" magazines aimed at men -- including local editions of such titles as FHM -- late-night adult television programs, illicit pornographic movies or the Internet.

But the planned appearance of Playboy in the Indonesian language and featuring Indonesian models has struck a raw nerve in the predominantly Islamic country.

Apart from the U.S. edition, Playboy has 20 local editions, although none in the Muslim world. All are based in Europe except for two in South America, one in Mexico and one in Japan.

Warning that the arrival of Playboy could trigger violence, the country's main religious affairs authority, the Indonesian Ulemas Council (MUI), urged the government to intervene.

"The government should forbid this kind of media, as it will cause a strong reaction from people and tend to bring anarchy among the people who are against this magazine," the Antara news agency quoted MUI fatwa commission head Maruf Amin as saying.

The country's largest mainstream Muslim organization, Nahdlatul Ulama (NU), said pornography would corrupt Indonesian youth.

The body, which claims a membership of 40 million, would also like to see other magazines with lewd contents banned.

Indonesia is also home to much smaller Islamist groups that have in the past acted against activities they regard as immoral or un-Islamic; for instance, mounting raids against people gambling or drinking alcohol.

Playboy could face similar violence or threats of violence.

Local Playboy licensee Ponti Carolus Pandean was quoted on Friday as saying the plan to launch an Indonesian edition would go ahead, but that pictures would be toned down and not include nude "pictorials."

The chairman of the Indonesian Press Council, Ichlasul Amal, suggested that the publisher restrict sales of Playboy to legally mature customers able to prove their age and that copies in bookstores be sold in wrappers. Rival magazines should face the same restrictions, the Jakarta Post quoted Ichlasul as saying.

Currently, Indonesian criminal legislation outlaws any material that offends public morals and decency or arouses lust in juveniles. Lawmakers are currently considering new and tougher morality laws.

Among the more controversial measures in the draft legislation is one that provides for jail sentences of up to seven years for anyone apprehended kissing in public or dancing in a way that includes "arousing movements."


Nudes-free Playboy sparks furor in Muslim Indonesia

JAKARTA, April 7, 2006 (AFP) - There are no nudes and the cover is anything but X-rated, but Playboy magazine still sparked a furor Friday when it hit newsstands in the world's most populous Muslim nation.

Indonesia's first edition of the monthly features pictures of underwear-clad women baring at most midriffs, thighs and cleavage, making it no more risqué than local editions of British men's magazines FHM and Maxim already on sale here.

And for some that was the problem.

While Muslim hardliners prepared to protest the launch of the magazine, some readers who paid 39,000 rupiah (about four dollars) were disappointed by the lack of saucy pictures.

"It's sinful to read Playboy if there's no nudity!" a caller to Jakarta's 68H radio said.

"It's a scandal! There are no nude women in the magazine. I think we have been deceived," another caller complained.

Playboy carried an interview with Pramoedya Ananta Toer, Indonesia's most prominent intellectual and author, as well as a lengthy article on reconciliation between Indonesia and East Timor, which broke away from Jakarta in 1999.

But its toned-down look did not assuage the anger of the Islamic Defenders Front (FPI), a group notorious for carrying out violent anti-vice raids on nightspots in the past and which has vowed to hold protests.

"Our men will come to the magazine's office after Friday prayers. Let's see what's going to happen," FPI leader Muhammad Rizieq Shihab told AFP.

"Playboy is synonymous with pornography. The name itself means a man who likes to play around with women. Who can guarantee that they won't publish nudity in the future?" he asked.

Some newspaper vendors were too afraid to sell the magazine following a recent move by police to seize publications featuring scantily-dressed women.

"I want to be on the safe side first, so at the moment I won't be selling Playboy," a vendor, Purba, told Elshinta radio.

Islamic leaders warned earlier this year when plans for Playboy's debut were first announced that the magazine would corrupt a culture already inundated by Western influences.

Most of Indonesia's Muslims, who make up around 85 percent of the population of 220 million, practice a moderate, tolerant form of the religion.

President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono weighed into the debate in February to question the magazine's benefit to Indonesia.


Indonesian Playboy Halts Operations After Protests

JAKARTA, April 20, 2006 ( & News Agencies) – Indonesia's local edition of Playboy magazine announced on Thursday, April 20, suspending operations after massive and sometimes violent protests in the world's most populous Muslim nation over its publication.

"For the time being, we are prioritizing security. We have vacated our office and we have halted our operational activities," said the magazine's chief editor Erwin Arnada, reported Agence France-Presse (AFP).

He said 26 corporate advertisers involved in the first issue said they would not continue placing ads because of the protests.

Last week, Jakarta police chief Firman Gani urged authorities to interfere to putt off Playboy's second issue if publishers refuse to voluntarily do so.

The first edition of the watered-down Playboy Indonesia hit news stands on Friday, April 7, sparking violent protests nationwide.

Angry Indonesians have vandalized the magazine's Jakarta office and broke windows of the building.

Though vocalizing opposition to the debut of the magazine, the government has admitted that its legal hands remain tied.

Founded in 1953, Playboy has about 20 local editions around the world that cater to local taste rather than simply exporting and translating its US content.


Arnada was questioned by police to determine whether or not the magazine's first edition had violated laws and regulations.

He said that he had fielded 34 questions, mostly about technical aspects of publishing and printing the magazine.

Arnada said he was summoned in response to charges by Muslim groups that the magazine violated articles of the criminal code, which carry a maximum penalty of 16 months in jail.

The editor went to the police headquarters accompanied by lawyers and about 10 other members of the magazine's editorial department.

Police would also interview expert witnesses in the fields of crime, language and culture together with scholars, spokesman of the Jakarta Metropolitan Police Chief Commissioner, I Ketut Untung Yoga Ana, said.

Some media distributors and newsstands were afraid to carry copies of the magazine.

The Indonesian Mujahidin Council (MMI) has filed a complaint with the police accusing the magazine of promoting obscenity.

Indonesian Muslim scholars had warned that the publication of Playboy would corrupt a culture already inundated by Western influences.

Porn discs are readily, if discreetly, available across the capital Jakarta for as little as 6,000 rupiah ($60 cents).

In recent years, lifestyle magazines have flooded Indonesia's markets, including those targeting a male audience.

Many are franchises of foreign publications in the United States, Europe, Australia and more liberal Asian nations.

FHM Indonesia, Sexy, Marta and Popular are but some of the more daring men's magazines on sale along Jakarta's busy streets.


Second edition 'Playboy' enrages Muslim hardliners

The Jakarta Post, Jakarta

The second edition of Indonesian Playboy, which hit the streets Wednesday, is not opposed by the nation's Press Council but hard-line Islamic groups are threatening street demonstrations until the magazine is shut down for good.

The council said Playboy had broken no laws and should not be banned. However, the militant and often-lawless vigilante group, the Islam Defender Front (FPI), said the adult magazine threatened the moral fiber of the nation.

The second edition of the magazine bearing the trademark bunny logo hit the nation's streets almost two months after the first infuriated conservative Muslims, who attacked the magazine's offices in Jakarta and forced it to relocate to the predominantly Hindu Bali.

The Press Council's Sabam Leo Batubara told The Jakarta Post that the second edition of Playboy had met all requirements for a legal publication.

"The magazine had not violated the press law, and no one should prohibit it," he said.

Sabam said the magazine featured only "soft pornography" and it should be tolerated as adult media the like other raunchy titles already on sale in the country.

"Soft porn is allowed as long as it is not sold to children. Soft porn and sex education is OK for adults," Sabam said.

After the publication of the first edition, the Press Council criticized Playboy for selling copies in the street.

FPI leader Habib Riziq Shihab said that by continuing to publish, Playboy had "challenged" the Muslim majority and said Muslim activists would "take the challenge."

"We will take to the streets soon to protest the publication," he told the Antara news wire.

Riziq said he believed the news about Playboy moving its offices to Bali was only a ploy to fool its critics.

He promised to visit the magazines former headquarters in Fatmawati, South Jakarta, to check whether it remained a distribution center.

Other hard-line groups, including the Indonesian Mujahidin Council, the Hizbut Tahrir Indonesia and Betawi Brotherhood Forum also plan to take to the streets in the coming days.

Several members of the House of Representatives said they regretted the reappearance of Playboy because it would provoke public violence.

A National Mandate Party legislator Djoko Susilo told the publisher should have delayed the second edition until the heat surrounding the controversy had dissipated.

Ida Fauziah, of the Nation Awakening Party, meanwhile, feared another round of attack on the magazine and its sellers unless it changed its distribution policy.

Erwin Arnada, the publisher and chief editor of Playboy, said that starting from the third edition, the magazine would be distributed only to exclusive bookstores in the country's big cities, targeting 25- to 45-year-old readers.

"We will not allow it to be sold on the streets and we will put a 'for adults only' label on its cover," he said.


Playboy Indonesia: Modest Flesh Meets Muslim Faith

New York Times


DENPASAR, Indonesia — When Erwin Arnada, editor in chief of Playboy magazine in Indonesia, answered a summons at police headquarters in the national capital, Jakarta, he turned up smiling, behaved like a good citizen and, in turn, was treated politely during nearly six hours of questioning.

The parrying, he recalled, went something like this:

“When did you first meet Kartika Oktavina Gunawan?” the police asked, referring knowledgeably to the model who appeared in the first centerfold of the Indonesian edition wearing a modest blue negligee that made lingerie advertisements in Western newspapers seem decidedly lewd.

“How can you not remember?” the policeman asked, according to the editor’s account of the recent good-natured encounter.

“Because I meet many beautiful people every day,” Mr. Arnada said he replied.

The questioners chuckled enviously, he said. They charged him, and Ms. Gunawan, with violating the indecency provisions of the criminal code, then let them go.

Playboy arrived in Indonesia, the world’s most populous Muslim nation, three months ago with an edition specially created to take account of local customs — no photographs of nude women, no nudity at all.

Playboy is published under license in 20 countries, mostly in Europe. Indonesia is the first Muslim country for the magazine since a Turkish edition folded in the mid-1990’s.

Fairly predictably, an Indonesian group, the Islamic Defenders Front, which specializes in attacks on nightclubs and gambling dens, threw rocks at the Playboy office in Jakarta, causing so much physical — and psychological — damage, Mr. Arnada said, that it was impossible for the staff to continue publishing there.

The magazine decamped here to the capital of Bali, a Hindu island, where foreign tourists parade in skimpy swimsuits and frolic in alcohol-suffused nightclubs.

The second and third issues were produced from the magazine’s new headquarters, a floor of a house belonging to a Hindu spiritual leader, a friend of Mr. Arnada, who is a Muslim. The latest layouts of the magazine are fashioned among Balinese wall hangings and religious offerings to the Hindu gods.

While the reaction of the Islamic groups in the capital was not surprising, the magazine was also caught in a parliamentary debate over an antipornography bill that is testing the heart of Indonesia’s tolerance.

The Indonesian Society Against Piracy and Pornography, which is pushing the bill, filed suit against the magazine, prompting the police investigation.

Goenawan Mohamad, the founder of Tempo, an Indonesian newsweekly, and a distinguished columnist, says Mr. Arnada has fashioned a magazine so tame that it would be absurd to ban it.

Although he supported the right of Playboy to publish, Mr. Mohamad said he found it difficult to be really enthusiastic about the magazine’s cause. “Playboy is a well-known magazine because of women’s lack of dress,’’ he said. “What’s the fuss?’’

In an effort to make the Indonesian edition palatable to local sensibilities, the first issue’s interview of the month was with the nation’s most famous author and dissident novelist, Pramoedya Ananta Toer. He died April 30 at the age of 81, soon after the issue appeared.

Most of the articles in the first three issues were the run-of-the-mill fare of any general interest magazine in Asia, an account of amputees from Cambodia’s civil war, the stories of Indonesian mail-order brides, a photo essay about domestic violence against children and a long article on East Timor.

The photographs of the centerfold Playmate in sparse though hardly salacious clothing (the second playmate was a Bali-based Frenchwoman, Doriane Amar — the attacks had temporarily frightened off Indonesian models) and a lonely hearts column geared to men were about the strongest suggestion that Indonesia’s Playboy was actually aimed at male readers.

The cover of the third issue was certainly fleshier, though still demure compared with other men’s glossies on the newsstands here: an Indonesian model dressed in a long mohair sweater and a pair of briefs shows cleavage and the suggestion — though only a suggestion — of her navel.

For Mr. Arnada, 41, who has a background in publishing entertainment tabloids and producing horror movies, all the fuss reflects fears about the intrusion of Western culture. “Why else do they keep shouting about Playboy?” he asked.

A widely distributed publication in Indonesia, Red Light, which is owned by one of the biggest Indonesian media conglomerates, Jawa Pos, is far more provocative, Mr. Arnada said.

Printed on crude newsprint and sold on the street by hawkers for the equivalent of 20 cents, Red Light carries advertisements for prostitutes and their phone numbers, features photos of naked men and women and is festooned with sexually provocative headlines.

The Indonesian Press Council, a government body, in fact has supported publication of Playboy, saying the country now has freedom of the press. So for the moment, Mr. Arnada and Ponti Corolus, who looks after the financial side of their publishing company, Velvet Silver Media, appear to have prevailed.

Mr. Arnada’s case on a charge of purveying indecency remained with the police, but had not been sent to the prosecutors. Before that happened, he said, “I hope they drop the charges.”

The first two issues of 100,000 copies each sold out briskly, even at the relatively steep price of $3.80. The third is doing nicely.

Some of the major advertisers — cigarette and cellphone companies, and brands of perfume, sunglasses and watches — who fled the second issue, afraid of threats from the Islamic Defenders Front, returned for the third issue.

Mr. Arnada, a self-described party boy, said a prominent Balinese nightclub owner had agreed to hold a Playmate event.

But ever the businessman, Mr. Arnada remains cautious. “I don’t say I win,” he said. “I don’t know where the ball is going. Suddenly I’m a suspect, and other publications with nude pictures are having a good life.”


Prison demanded for Playboy editor


Fairfax Digital
March 14, 2007

PROSECUTORS have demanded a two-year jail term for the editor of Playboy Indonesia for publishing indecent pictures for profit.

And among those attending the trial of editor-in-chief Erin Arnada is radical cleric Abu Bakar Bashir.

Bashir served time in jail for the deadly 2002 Bali bombings — which killed 202 people, including 88 Australians — before having his conviction overturned by the Supreme Court.

The cleric told reporters yesterday that the prosecution in the Arnada trial was not being strong enough.

"The prosecution's demand does not match the damage that Playboy has inflicted. We want the judges to give the defendant a heavier sentence," he told assembled media outside the Jakarta court.

The magazine's first edition sparked protests in Indonesia when it came out last April, though it had no nudity and less visible flesh than many other magazines on sale in the world's most populous Muslim country.

Arnada argued that Playboy Indonesia was good for developing a pluralistic society, but the prosecution and Islamic hardliners who have regularly attended his trial since late last year say he had harmed the nation's morals.

"The pictures selected by the defendant were improper for publication because they violated decency and aroused lust," prosecutor Resni Muchtar told the South Jakarta court.

More than 100 Muslim protesters in the court criticised the prosecution for being soft, shouting, "Hang him, hang him."

Under Indonesian law, sentencing demands from the prosecution serve as strong advice to judges.

The magazine is still on sale in Indonesian cities despite attacks on Playboy's Jakarta office following last April's launch. There has been no Government move to ban it.

The controversy has faded after Playboy Indonesia moved its operations to the Hindu island of Bali, where conservative Islam has little clout.

Indonesia has 220 million people, about 85 per cent of whom follow Islam.