Playboy publishers fear retribution in Indonesia

Violent protests cause publishers to weigh risks.

Tracy Clark-Flory
April 21, 2006 11:57PM (UTC)

Violent protests over Indonesia's first issue of Playboy were enough to force publishers to temporarily halt publication, Reuters reports. After rocks were thrown and windows broken, advertisers ducked out. Now amid threats of physical violence, publishers are left to weigh the risks of continuing.

Contrary to everything typically associated with the Playboy name, the much tamed-down version of the U.S. edition did not feature any nudes. ("I read it for the articles" has new credibility in this case, I suppose.) According to Reuters, the magazine is much less scandalous than many other magazines already widely available in the country. But for a country with the largest Muslim population in the world, the Playboy name carries a strong association with morally corrupt Western attitudes toward sex.


Last week, Reuters reported that the violent protests were organized by the vigilante Islamic Defenders Front. While throwing stones through the windows of the Indonesian Playboy building, protesters shouted, "Allahu Akbar" ("God is greatest"). Protesters also heckled vendors and stole copies of the magazine that were later burned. As a result, there are now copies selling on eBay, with the highest bid at $80 (20 times the original price).

The Playboy debate came on the heels of already contentious anti-pornography legislation. Some suggest that the outcry is part of an intense push among extremists toward Islamization. What's clear is that women's bodies are the focus of fiery debate and -- not for the first time -- being employed as political ammunition. The real question: How will women figure in the debate?

Tracy Clark-Flory

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