That was my first reaction when Fahira Idris, well known Indonesian twitterati and newly elected Jakarta senator, launched her attack on Elex Media Komputindo, an Indonesian publisher that recently printed and circulated a comic book on puberty and sex education adapted from South Korea.
In case you did not follow the whole drama, Fahira (also known as Uni, or sister in West Sumatra dialect, on social media), despised the comic book for favoring homosexuals and “accommodating” the LGBT lifestyle for adolescents. She called the book a part of “LGBT propaganda” (okay, whatever that means).
Acting as the founder of Independent Children of the Nation Foundation, Uni decided to take her unadulterated loathing of the LGBT people in Indonesia to the next level by asking the publisher to withdraw the book from the market. Uni, who once gained my admiration for openly criticizing the notorious Islamic Defenders Front (FPI), now acts like a hardliner herself by asking for a book to be banned. She also demanded a public apology from Elex Media, one of the companies under the giant publisher Gramedia Pustaka.
This is not the first time our beloved Uni did something that made the sassy woman in me went, “oh, no, she didn’t!” In March last year, Uni Fahira took it on her Twitter account to call on LGBT Indonesians to not become, wait for it, “predators” on (ugh) normal, young Indonesians.
This is hilarious. In a bad way.
I still remember why she tweeted such a thing: because one of her followers asked for her opinion about U.S. politician Hillary Clinton (I forgot her position at the time, to be honest) who just expressed her support for LGBT rights in the country.
I remember how Uni Fahira said, “let it be Hillary’s country alone (that supports LGBT rights), but not our country [Indonesia].” She said something like that, basically.
I guess Uni never heard or read anything about the notorious Westboro Baptist Church followers who would go as far as conducting anti-gay protests at funerals (because the deceased were part of LGBT community).
Or maybe she never heard or read anything about the murders of LGBT people in the name of hate. Names like Brandon Teena, Matthew Shepard and Gwen Araujo (all murdered because of who they were) won’t ring a bell to Fahira.
Maybe she never knew that a gay teenager killed himself after posting some videos on Youtube because of constant bullying.
Uni repeatedly said she was “not against the LGBT people”, but her actions prove otherwise.
I haven’t read the comic book, actually, so I’d humbly say that I can’t defend the book (though I can’t say the same about people who attacked the book on Twitter, although I’m sure they hadn’t read it either). But after seeing the one page that was circulating in the media, I really did not see anything wrong with it.
One of the characters in the comic book says, “Love cannot be forced. Love is determined by one’s heart. Every person has the right to love and be loved. If they love a person who is from the same gender, that’s a personal choice. If they can choose, of course they want to choose a person from the opposite gender.”
I personally think this sentence is beautiful. Well, I don’t know about the “choice”, though. I don’t think one can choose his or her love. But, yeah, whatever, I won’t go the publisher and ask them to burn the book, though.
Quoting Elex Media’s general manager, Ari Subagijo, the reason behind their decision to publish the book was simply to help parents answer their children to answer this kind of questions. (“Papa, what is gay?”; “Mama, can two women fall in love with each other?”)
I for one would be very proud if my kids (if I ever have any) ask questions like this because that will prove them to be naturally inquisitive.
Like it or not, children and teenagers will ask questions. You cannot forbid them to do so. You may ask your own children to shut their mouth and read the Quran instead of asking this sort of stuff, but it won’t stop them from questioning it.
And, Elex Media has said the book has put a disclaimer in the cover that parents should accompany their children when reading it. Rather than spending so much time on Facebook and Twitter posting your personal thoughts about the Gaza crisis and the presidential election, perhaps you could accompany your children with their reading.
So back to Uni Fahira.
Maybe she didn’t know that an Indonesian teenager in Indonesia was strangled by his classmate because he’s gay (a friend just told me last evening). She probably never read a joint UN report published in June titled “Being LGBT in Asia: Indonesia Country Report” that highlighted the struggle faced by LGBT Indonesians and the violence perpetrated against them.
Perhaps Uni would rather support this kind of violence instead of a simple message from a comic book that promote tolerance?
Uni, I want you to make up your mind. Don’t say you’re “not against LGBT people” while completely doing the opposite. Your actions will only add fuel to the fire of hatred that LGBT Indonesians have to endure already.
Or would you like to wait for one of us LGBT Indonesians to be murdered in cold blood before you stop spreading the hate? Your call.
About Amahl S. Azwar
Amahl is an openly gay writer who lives in Bandung, West Java. Follow @mcmahel on Twitter and blog www.mcmahel.wordpress.com