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5/26/09

Indonesian Muslim clerics frown at Facebook We forbid the use of Facebook

SURABAYA, Indonesia (AFP) — Indonesian Islamic clerics warned Muslims on Friday not to use popular Internet networking sites like Facebook for flirting or gossiping.

A non-binding resolution issued after a meeting of hundreds of Islamic scholars from Java and Bali islands warns that using sites like Facebook can lead to pornography and "obscenity."

We forbid the use of Facebook, Friendster and other social networking sites unless they are being used to foster Islamic teaching," a spokesman for the clerics, Abdul Muid Shohib, said.

"So spreading ill words about others, gossiping and other things that go against religious teaching on social networking sites in the virtual world are forbidden according to Islamic law."

Facebook is hugely popular in the world's most populous Muslim country, and while rulings from Islamic clerics are influential they are rarely followed to the letter.

Indonesia ranks fifth behind the United States, the United Kingdom, Italy and France in terms of Facebook use, according to Internet tracking website Alexa.com.

This is despite its crumbling or, in many areas, non-existent digital infrastructure, and the fact that the majority of the country's 234 million people have little or no access to computers.

Shohib acknowledged that the networking site, where people can set up their own profile pages and share comments and pictures with their friends, was also popular among students and imams at Indonesia's conservative Islamic schools.

"We realise that the virtual world is hard to control," he said.

"There are many senior imams who worry because pornographic images often pop out while they interact through Facebook," he added.

The clerics will monitor the use of such websites and will urge the government to close them down if they became a threat to Islamic teachings, he said.

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