Indonesia’s top Muslim clergy body spoke out Thursday against a planned visit by the US envoy for LGBTQ rights, saying it would not receive a guest “whose intent is to undermine our nation’s cultural and religious values.”
Same-gender sex is not a criminal offense in Indonesia, except in its Aceh province, but the world’s most populous Muslim-majority nation has seen growing anti-LGBTQ sentiment.
Jessica Stern, the US special envoy to promote the rights of LGBTQI+ people, is scheduled to visit Indonesia on December 7, after trips to Vietnam and the Philippines, the State Department said. LGBTQI+ stands for lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer, and intersex people.
During his trip to Southeast Asia, Stern will meet with government officials and civil society representatives to discuss “promoting the human rights of LGBTQI+ people,” the department said on its website.
The vice president of the Council of Ulema of Indonesia (MUI), Anwar Abbas, said that the organization “categorically rejects the visit of the special envoy.”
The MUI “cannot welcome a guest whose purpose in coming here is to harm and undermine the noble religious and cultural values of our nation,” Anwar said, calling homosexual behavior “dangerous.”
“If this behavior is tolerated, it will lead to the extinction of humanity, because if men marry men and women marry women, they will not reproduce,” he said.
MUI President Cholil NafisA board member of Nahdlatul Ulama, the country’s largest Islamic organization, tweeted that Indonesian officials should not “take the time to meet with the LGBT envoy.”
Indonesian Foreign Ministry spokesman Teuku Faizasyah said he had no details about Stern’s visit and declined to comment on opposition to his trip.
Although same-gender sex is not illegal, discrimination against LGBTQ community seems to be on the rise in the Southeast Asian country.
In May, the government summoned the UK envoy following the british embassy he was criticized by conservative Muslim groups and politicians here for flying a rainbow flag in support of sexual minorities.
In Aceh, the only province that applies Islamic law in Indonesia, same gender couples they have been flogged after sharia courts found them guilty of intimacy.
The Indonesian military, which bans same-gender sex as “inappropriate behavior,” recently handed down seven-month prison sentences to two soldiers for having physical relationships, according to the Agence France-Presse news agency. In addition, the soldiers were expelled from the army.
Meanwhile, rights activists are concerned about a new penal code bill due to be passed this month that could criminalize so-called deviant sexual behavior and sex outside of marriage.
‘Disrespectful’ MUI statement
Indonesia is not just the MUI, said Dede Oetomo, a university professor and LGBTQ rights advocate, adding that he had been invited to an online hearing with the US envoy next week.
“Indonesia is diverse. There are also people who are gay,” Dede told BenarNews.
He called MUI’s statement on Stern’s visit “disrespectful” and “not in keeping with international relations etiquette.”
Andreas Harsono, an Indonesia researcher for New York-based Human Rights Watch (HRW), said the MUI had no power to stop Stern from visiting Indonesia.
“In any good country, someone like Jessica Stern … is welcome to visit, especially because she is going to speak on an important issue,” he told BenarNews.
“LGBT rights, whether you like it or not, is a very important issue.”