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NEWS UPDATES Asean Affairs        30  April 2011

Indonesian film examines religious tolerance

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A guard discovers a bomb tucked under a pew in a church, grabs it and runs out to save the congregation. It explodes some distance away, killing him instantly.

The scene is from a newly released film about religious tolerance, but its eerie similarity to the discovery of bombs placed near a church in West Java last week is chilling.

The movie’s characters explore struggles with their faiths through scenes such as inter-religious marriage or workplaces that challenge the practice of their beliefs. One controversial scene has a character playing a Muslim working in a restaurant that sells pork.

The movie, simply titled “?”, has sparked protests from some quarters, but many Indonesians feel it is high time society talked openly about these topics.

“It captures issues that people are grappling with in Indonesian society, especially how we are trying to respect each other’s right to practice different faiths,” said business consultant Putra Pratama, 30.

“I can relate to the idea that each of us has our take on how religious we want to be. The film also shows how some can be irrational when dealing with religious issues while others use common sense.”

The film has drawn flak from the hard-line camp, such as the Islamic Defenders Front, which threatened to raid cinemas that screen it. It labeled some scenes blasphemous.

Joining the fray, the Indonesian Ulema Council warned that it is considering banning the film for its bold portrayal of some issues, such as implying that it is all right for one to abandon Islam, and for showing alternative paths to God, which the council said goes against its beliefs of championing the religion.

What is clear is, after the shock of last week’s discovery of bomb plots and networks of homegrown terrorists, Indonesians are tired of radical elements lurking in their society.

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AseanAffairs   04 January 2011
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It is commonplace in journalism to write two types of articles at the transition point between the year that has passed and the New Year. As this writer qualifies as an “old hand” in observing Thailand with a track record dating back 14 years, it is time take a shot at what may unfold in Thailand in 2011.

The first issue that can’t be answered is the health of Thailand’s beloved King Bhumibol, who is now 83 years old. He is the world's longest reigning monarch, but elaborate birthday celebrations in December failed to mask concern over his health. More


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