Fitna is the flavour of the month it seems and blog worthy developments just keep on coming...
MUI, the Indonesian Council of Ulemas, has decided to call for a boycott of Dutch goods in protest of the film. Interestingly, the MUI has not issued a Fatwa about this but rather has decided to make its views known through statements to the press. Two questions: "Is the film not offensive enough to warrant a Fatwa?" and "Is it true that the reason that a Fatwa was not issued was because that Fatwas issued by the MUI have no legal standing and hence a waste of time and paper?"
The MUI plays a role in assisting with policy development and to provide insight as to what religious implications there are in policy or law from the perspective of Islam. Therefore, it has an advisory function but the MUI seems to be a lightweight wanting to fight in the heavyweight division. It simply is not a constitutionally defined law making or adjudicative body.
Now, onto the main point of this blog entry, the blocking of Internet sites and bloggers. The Minister of Communication and Information in his infinite wisdom has issued a letter demanding that all Internet Service Providers (ISP) and Network Access Points (NAP) block the film Fitna in order that it cannot be downloaded by Indonesians in Indonesia.
There are a couple of points to be made here. The call to ban and block comes a little too late as the film has been released on the Internet already and those Indonesians with an interest have probably already downloaded it. Those that haven't will find that it is destined to appear on locally hosted sites that ISPs will have much more difficulty in dealing with. Furthermore, the letter left too much discretion to the imagination of ISPs and NAPs in how to deal with this.
This discretion has seen XL (Indonesian phone company - apologies link is in Indonesian) decide to ban access completely to You Tube, My Space, Meta Cafe, and Rapidshare. This is a somewhat extreme maneuver to ensure that one single film does not enter the jurisdiction of the Republic of Indonesia. It also sets a bad precedent on which the government can capitalize on later when it want to restrict access to other objectionable material. Indonesia seems to be returning to an era of the New Order ++ where information and communication restrictions are potentially more repressive than ever.
So, anyone that relies on access to You Tube, My Space, Meta Cafe, or Rapidshare needs to find an ISP or NAP that is yet to block these sites in their entirety or as some have already done find ways of bypassing the blocks instituted by the ISP or NAP.
The current letter was issued under Article 21 of the Telecommunications Law and not the recently enacted Information and Electronic Transactions Law. However, the provisions in both are similar in the manner in which they intend to deal with issues of religious relations, harmony, gambling, threats of violence, and public order.