May 28, 2009

Muslim clerics consider Facebook ban

by David Masters

Muslim clerics in Indonesia are concerned that the prolific rise of social networking sites such as Facebook and Twitter could encourage illicit sex.

Around 700 imams are gathering today to put together guidelines to regulate online behaviour in Indonesia, the world’s most populous Muslim country.

Facebook is Indonesia’s most visited website, with the number of Indonesian Facebook members growing 645% during 2008 to 831,000, outpacing both India and China.

The site’s popularity has led many clerics in Indonesia to raise concern over it’s “inappropriate content”.

A spokesperson for the gathering said the clerics are concerned that social networking can lead to lust, which is a sin in Islam.

An edict by the clerics will not carry any legal weight, however it could be endorsed by the influential Ulema Council, which recently issued fatwas against smoking and yoga.

Amidan, head of the Ulema Council, favours a complete ban on Facebook because of its potential for sexual content.

Facebook can tempt users into “distasteful pornographic chatting,” Amidan said.

Most devout Muslims in Indonesia adhere to the Ulema Council’s rulings, because ignoring a fatwa is considered sinful.

Ninety percent of Indonesians follow Islam, although most practice a moderate form of the faith.

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