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Gay film festival Q!, an annual fixture in Indonesia and the largest gay film showcase in Asia, was condemned for the first time this year by Islamic groups. One group, the hard-line Islamic Defenders Front (FPI), even threatened to attack venues where the films were being screened.

Homosexuality is legal in the secular nation of Indonesia but among the 240-million strong population, 80% of which is Muslim, open discussion of the issue is strongly taboo.

The biggest Islamic body in the country, the Indonesian Ulema Council (MUI) called for the film festival to be banned. MUI Chairman Ma’ ruf Amin said, ''We reject the screening of the films which contain homosexual lives as they are against Islamic and Indonesian cultural values.''

This year, the festival lasted from 22 – 30 September and showcased over 150 films from over 20 countries, including Philippines, France and Germany. While the organizers were local cinema enthusiasts, the German Goethe Institute, the Japan Foundation, the French Cultural Centre and Erasmus House of the Netherlands offered their space to screen the films.

Festival director John Badalu said that this is in direct response to the threats of physical violence from hardline groups. ''Funding for the festival comes from foreign groups. We hold screenings at foreign centres. The radicals won't dare to attack us. If they do, it's like attacking several countries at one go,'' he said.

Still, Badalu said that he did not expect any extreme opposition, however kept the event low-key to avoid exacerbating tensions. Advertising in the traditional media was also avoided; instead social networking site Twitter was used to connect the queer community in Indonesia around the festival.

Communications ministry spokesperson Gatot Dewa Broto said that the central government did not have any concerns with the festivals, citing the long-running festival was well aware of the sensitivities of the nation. We have no objections. As long as the content is not too sexually explicit, not too vulgar, we're OK, we can tolerate it, he said.





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