INDONESIA: 'Radar' suspends publication over article

Controversial op-ed piece stirs protest from Muslim community and results in three days of halted operations at Central Sulawesi's biggest daily

The Jakarta Post
Monday, June 27, 2005

By Ruslan Sangadji

Bowing to pressure following protests over an opinion article, the management of Central Sulawesi's biggest daily, Radar Sulteng, has decided not to publish the newspaper for three days, starting Sunday.

The decision was taken following a protest on Saturday by some 2,000 people from a group calling itself the Palu City Muslim Community, who were protesting against an opinion article titled Islam, A Failed Religion written by Rus'an, a lecturer at the Muhammadiyah University in Palu, which was published on June 23.

The protest leader, Husen Alhabsyi, said the daily had made a serious error in running the article, which was offensive to Muslims and endangered religious harmony in the province.

"The writer and the chief editor should be held responsible. The police should immediately question them," Husen said.

He said that such an article should not be appear in a publication aimed at the general public but rather should be confined to academic forums.

"It's the people who have 'failed', not the religion. Once again, the writer and the chief editor should be held responsible. The paper should be closed," Husen said.

The article, among another things, highlighted the allegations of corruption in the Ministry of Religious Affairs, in which former minister Said Agil Hussein Al-Munawar is implicated. The writer said that despite his Islamic name, Al-Munawar had committed a serious moral crime. Instead of serving as a moral role model, it appeared that instead he was involved in the misuse of haj funds.

After talking to the protesters, the daily's chief editor, Kamil Badrun, announced that the paper would not be published for three days.

"Despite the Press Law, I decided not to publish the paper for three days while straightening out some internal matters within the editorial department," Kamil said.

Apart from not publishing the paper for three days, the daily, which is part of the Jawa Pos News Network (JPNN), would also punish those in charge of the opinion and editorial sections, he said, without saying what forms of punishment would be imposed.

Separately, Central Sulawesi Police chief Brig. Gen. Aryanto Sutadi said that prior to the protest, the police had also received complaints about the article from Muslim clerics belonging to the Alkhairaat organization.

The police, he said, had questioned a number of witnesses from the daily and expert witnesses from the Central Sulawesi branch of the Indonesia Ulemas Council. Following this, the police had decided to charge Rus'an as a suspect for insulting Islam.