Indonesian clerics want rules for Facebook

May 21, 2009 By INDRA HARSAPUTRA , Associated Press Writer

(AP) -- Muslim clerics are seeking ways to regulate online behavior in Indonesia, saying the exploding popularity of social networking sites like Facebook could encourage illicit sex.

Around 700 clerics, or imams, gathering in the world's most populous Muslim nation on Thursday were considering guidelines forbidding their followers from going online to flirt or engage in practices they believe could encourage extramarital affairs.

Inside Facebook, an independent Palo Alto, Calif.-based blog dedicated to tracking the site, says Indonesia, a nation of 235 million, was the fastest-growing country in Southeast Asia for the site in 2008, with a 645 percent increase to 831,000 users.

It is already the most visited site in Indonesia, and with less than 0.5 percent of Indonesia's citizens wired, there is a huge potential for growth.

"The clerics think it is necessary to set an edict on virtual networking, because this online relationship could lead to lust, which is forbidden in Islam," said Nabil Haroen, a spokesman for the Lirboyo Islamic boarding school, which was hosting the event.

Though followers could still be members of the networking site, guidelines dealing with surfing the Web and Islamic values are urgently needed, he said.

"People are typically using Facebook to connect with their friends, family or learn about local and world issues and events," said Debbie Frost, a Facebook spokeswoman. "We have seen many people and organizations use Facebook to advance a positive agenda."

Ninety percent of Indonesians are Muslim and most practice a moderate form of the faith.

An edict by the clerics would not have any legal weight. But it could be endorsed by the influential Ulema Council, which recently issued rulings against smoking and yoga. Some devout Muslims adhere to the council's rulings because ignoring a fatwa, or religious decree, is considered a sin.

Amidan, who heads the Ulema Council, said the growing number of Facebook users in Indonesia was a controversial subject among Muslim leaders and that he favored a ban because of possible sexual content.

"People using Facebook can be driven to engage in distasteful, pornographic chatting," said Amidan, who was monitoring the two-day conference in the town of Kediri, in eastern Java.

Many clerics are concerned that "inappropriate content" on Facebook could be accessed by children, said Amidan, who like many Indonesians goes by a single name.

Facebook is the top ranked site in Indonesia, ahead of search engines Yahoo and Google, according Alexa.com, which tracks Internet traffic. Nearly 4 percent of all visitors are from , making it the largest source of visitors after the United States, the United Kingdom, France and Italy.

--

AP reporter Niniek Karmini in Jakarta contributed to this report.
©2009 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

Explore further: Britain's UKIP issues online rules after gaffes

add to favorites email to friend print save as pdf

Related Stories

Facebook 'top social network in Europe'

Apr 15, 2009

Spectacular growth over the past year has made Facebook the top social network in Europe, digital research firm comScore reported on Wednesday.

Recommended for you

Britain's UKIP issues online rules after gaffes

20 hours ago

UK Independence Party (UKIP), the British anti-European Union party, has ordered a crackdown on the use of social media by supporters and members following a series of controversies.

Sony saga blends foreign intrigue, star wattage

20 hours ago

The hackers who hit Sony Pictures Entertainment days before Thanksgiving crippled the network, stole gigabytes of data and spilled into public view unreleased films and reams of private and sometimes embarrassing ...

Digital dilemma: How will US respond to Sony hack?

Dec 18, 2014

The detective work blaming North Korea for the Sony hacker break-in appears so far to be largely circumstantial, The Associated Press has learned. The dramatic conclusion of a Korean role is based on subtle ...

User comments : 2

Adjust slider to filter visible comments by rank

Display comments: newest first

jsovine
not rated yet May 21, 2009
Make a new form to create a religious "group" on facebook that upon joining, imposes a set of rules/filtering/ect on your account. Quitting is just as easy as joining. And it would let you know up front what you were doing so as to prevent confusion.
dirk_bruere
not rated yet May 21, 2009
"Illicit sex" - or, the idea that some anonymous group of people want to control the behaviour of consenting adults. Not a purely Muslim phenomenon, sadly.

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.