A hard-line Islamic group has threatened to demonstrate outside the headquarters of a TV station on Saturday over its plans to air a controversial film.
Habib Salim Alatas, the leader of the Jakarta wing of the Islamic Defenders Front (FPI), claimed approximately 1,500 of its members would gather outside the SCTV offices to demand it cancel all plans to air the film on Takbir night.
The film by director Hanung Bramantyo, called “?”, studies the role and state of Islam in modern Indonesian society. The FPI’s goal is to establish Shariah law and it has used violent methods in the past.
“We do not understand why SCTV is willing to air ‘?’, while the Indonesian Council of Ulema [MUI] has clearly said the movie damages Islamic values and morale,” Alatas said.
The MUI issued a fatwa, or Islamic ruling, in April forbidding Muslims from watching the film, claiming it propagated the idea that there are paths to God other than Islam.
Alatas said SCTV knew people opposed the film, adding that it was not just the FPI. Other organizations affiliated with the Islamic People’s Forum (FUI) would join the campaign, he said.
“We will go to the SCTV studio in the afternoon and we will not leave until the SCTV staff comes outside and gives us assurances that they will not air the film,” he continued. “If SCTV still airs it, we will take serious action.”
He said his group had sent a letter outlining its proposed protest to the Jakarta Police.
SCTV spokesman Uki Hastma said the station would take time to listen to the FPI but added that no decisions had yet been made about whether or not to screen the controversial film.
“I cannot say yet what other steps we will take. That will be decided after talks with the FPI,” Uki said.
The award-winning Hanung, who is known for exploring religion’s role in modern society in his movies, said he hoped SCTV would not give in to the FPI.
“As a television station, SCTV can only be controlled by the Indonesian Broadcasting Commission [KPI],” Hanung said, adding that the station could lose its credibility if it backed down.
“If SCTV gives in to the FPI’s demands, it will lose its credibility. I believe that SCTV will not risk their credibility easily.”
The enigmatically titled “?”, is a study of the role and state of Islam in modern Indonesian society. Released in April, the film stirred up heated debate and protests long before it ever reached a projection room or was shown in movie theaters.
A group called Banser, which operates as the youth wing of the country’s largest Muslim organization, Nahdlatul Ulama, has been among the more vocal critics of “?” in the run-up to its launch.
The group objected to a scene in which young Banser recruits are seen being paid to perform tasks that would normally be in direct breach of a good Muslim’s duty to be charitable.