‘Gay Muslim’ Instagram Account Vanishes After Pressure From Indonesian Officials

The Facebook-owned app says it didn’t remove the account despite pressure from religious hardliners to have it purged

An Instagram account posting comic strips of gay Muslim characters has disappeared from the popular app on Wednesday, after mounting pressure from Indonesian officials and religious fanatics to remove the account.

The account, @Alpantuni, popped up in January with the tagline “Gay Muslim comics for people who are able to think,” according to The New York Times. Some of the account’s comics showed men in bed with their shirts off together, although it didn’t violate Instagram’s policy of posting nude pictures. It was quickly denounced in Indonesia, the world’s largest Muslim-majority country, for touching on issues of gay identity and religious bigotry. The account had about 6,000 followers before it was removed.

According to the Associated Press, Indonesia’s Ministry of Communications said the account was “pornographic” and violated its law. Indonesian officials threatened to ban Instagram throughout the country if it didn’t comply with removing the account. Instagram “fulfilled” this request on Wednesday, the Ministry of Communications told the AP.

Instagram, however, told TheWrap it did not remove the account. “There are a number of other reasons why an account may no longer be accessible, including, for example, if the account holder deleted the account, deactivated the account, or changed the account username.”

A corresponding Facebook account was also pulled down on Wednesday.

While homosexuality is legal in Indonesia, the government has started to increasingly punish gay men and women in recent years, as “radical Islamists have also been playing a larger role in Indonesia’s politics,” the Washington Post reported in late 2017. Nearly 150 gay men were arrested for violating the country’s wide-ranging anti-pornography laws in 2017 after police raided a party at a sauna in the Jakarta, the nation’s capital. An additional two men were arrested last October for running a Facebook page dedicated to setting up gay men. Many others, including gay men and women accused of adultery, have been publicly beaten for violating draconian religious laws.

“For us, being LGBT is a psychological illness that needs to be cured, and this comic is promoting it,” Muhyiddin Junaidi, a rep for the Council of Ulemas, a body of Muslim scholars, told the NYT.