Radical Islamist units in Syria are sidelining more moderate groups that do not share the Islamists' goal of establishing a supreme religious leadership in the country. Special Report
INTERVIEW - Bali governor says won't enforce Indonesia porn law
JAKARTA (Reuters) - Indonesia's mainly Hindu island of Bali has no intention of enforcing a controversial anti-porn law passed last year because it conflicts with local culture and tradition, the provincial governor said in an email interview.
Pluralism and religious freedom have become election issues in predominantly Muslim, officially secular Indonesia.
The new law, which created much confusion over what would be considered pornographic, was slammed by religious minorities but backed by the Islamic and Islamist political parties allied to President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono, who is seeking re-election in the presidential polls on July 8.
"As long as I am the governor of Bali, I, along with the head of the provincial government in Bali, have stated that we will not enforce this law in Bali," Governor I Made Mangku Pastika told Reuters, adding that the law is "not appropriate for the people of Bali."
He said the most serious effect of the law would be its impact on Bali's culture and traditional art, which includes nude statues and often sexually explicit imagery.
"The artworks and cultural practices of Bali are not in any way meant to be pornographic. They are meant to educate and communicate about the essence of life and existence," he said.
Centuries-old traditions including outdoor bathing would also have to be banned if the law was properly enforced, added the governor, a former police chief who led investigations into deadly bomb attacks by Islamic militants on Bali.
Pastika said that he had not yet been reprimanded by the central government, despite his stated aim to disobey the law.
Bali's economy is also heavily dependent on tourism because of its culture, beaches and surfing.
The anti-porn law fuelled concerns that tourists might be arrested for wearing swimwear, but Pastika said tourists were exempt.
"The impact of the law on our tourism sector will not be significant because tourism has been granted an exception," he said.
Yudhoyono's Democrat Party won the parliamentary election in April with one fifth of the votes, and has formed a coalition with several smaller parties including the Islamist Prosperous Justice Party (PKS).
Minority groups warned that the anti-pornography bill -- which was passed in October last year and bans public displays of flesh and behaviour that could incite lust -- was a sign of creeping conservatism in traditionally pluralist Indonesia.
"However, I am sure that they [Islam-based parties] realise that in a natural democracy and in this current era of reform, PKS and other Islam-based parties will not force their will on others because that conflicts with the era of reformasi," or reform, he said.
While recognising that he is subordinate to the central government in Jakarta, Pastika said he was beholden to his voters.
"The governor is obligated to listen to and fulfil the aspirations of the people who chose him. This is also true in the area of law enforcement," he said.
"If the people reject a law, that means the law is inconsistent with the aspirations of the people. In a true democracy, the aspirations of the people are the priority."
"For the people of Bali, it's not only what's written but also what's moral and ethical."
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