From New York Times http://www.nytimes.com/2006/07/24/world/asia/24bali.html?_r=1&oref=slogin Playboy Indonesia: Modest Flesh Meets Muslim Faith
By JANE PERLEZ
Published: July 24, 2006
DENPASAR, Indonesia — When Erwin Arnada, editor in chief of Playboy magazine in Indonesia, answered a summons at police headquarters in the national capital, Jakarta, he turned up smiling, behaved like a good citizen and, in turn, was treated politely during nearly six hours of questioning.
The parrying, he recalled, went something like this:
“When did you first meet Kartika Oktavina Gunawan?” the police asked, referring knowledgeably to the model who appeared in the first centerfold of the Indonesian edition wearing a modest blue negligee that made lingerie advertisements in Western newspapers seem decidedly lewd.
“How can you not remember?” the policeman asked, according to the editor’s account of the recent good-natured encounter.
“Because I meet many beautiful people every day,” Mr. Arnada said he replied.
The questioners chuckled enviously, he said. They charged him, and Ms. Gunawan, with violating the indecency provisions of the criminal code, then let them go.
Playboy arrived in Indonesia, the world’s most populous Muslim nation, three months ago with an edition specially created to take account of local customs — no photographs of nude women, no nudity at all.
Playboy is published under license in 20 countries, mostly in Europe. Indonesia is the first Muslim country for the magazine since a Turkish edition folded in the mid-1990’s.
Fairly predictably, an Indonesian group, the Islamic Defenders Front, which specializes in attacks on nightclubs and gambling dens, threw rocks at the Playboy office in Jakarta, causing so much physical — and psychological — damage, Mr. Arnada said, that it was impossible for the staff to continue publishing there.
The magazine decamped here to the capital of Bali, a Hindu island, where foreign tourists parade in skimpy swimsuits and frolic in alcohol-suffused nightclubs.
The second and third issues were produced from the magazine’s new headquarters, a floor of a house belonging to a Hindu spiritual leader, a friend of Mr. Arnada, who is a Muslim. The latest layouts of the magazine are fashioned among Balinese wall hangings and religious offerings to the Hindu gods.
While the reaction of the Islamic groups in the capital was not surprising, the magazine was also caught in a parliamentary debate over an antipornography bill that is testing the heart of Indonesia’s tolerance.
The Indonesian Society Against Piracy and Pornography, which is pushing the bill, filed suit against the magazine, prompting the police investigation.
Goenawan Mohamad, the founder of Tempo, an Indonesian newsweekly, and a distinguished columnist, says Mr. Arnada has fashioned a magazine so tame that it would be absurd to ban it.
Although he supported the right of Playboy to publish, Mr. Mohamad said he found it difficult to be really enthusiastic about the magazine’s cause. “Playboy is a well-known magazine because of women’s lack of dress,’’ he said. “What’s the fuss?’’
In an effort to make the Indonesian edition palatable to local sensibilities, the first issue’s interview of the month was with the nation’s most famous author and dissident novelist, Pramoedya Ananta Toer. He died April 30 at the age of 81, soon after the issue appeared.
Most of the articles in the first three issues were the run-of-the-mill fare of any general interest magazine in Asia, an account of amputees from Cambodia’s civil war, the stories of Indonesian mail-order brides, a photo essay about domestic violence against children and a long article on East Timor.
The photographs of the centerfold Playmate in sparse though hardly salacious clothing (the second playmate was a Bali-based Frenchwoman, Doriane Amar — the attacks had temporarily frightened off Indonesian models) and a lonely hearts column geared to men were about the strongest suggestion that Indonesia’s Playboy was actually aimed at male readers.
The cover of the third issue was certainly fleshier, though still demure compared with other men’s glossies on the newsstands here: an Indonesian model dressed in a long mohair sweater and a pair of briefs shows cleavage and the suggestion — though only a suggestion — of her navel.
For Mr. Arnada, 41, who has a background in publishing entertainment tabloids and producing horror movies, all the fuss reflects fears about the intrusion of Western culture. “Why else do they keep shouting about Playboy?” he asked.
A widely distributed publication in Indonesia, Red Light, which is owned by one of the biggest Indonesian media conglomerates, Jawa Pos, is far more provocative, Mr. Arnada said.
Printed on crude newsprint and sold on the street by hawkers for the equivalent of 20 cents, Red Light carries advertisements for prostitutes and their phone numbers, features photos of naked men and women and is festooned with sexually provocative headlines.
The Indonesian Press Council, a government body, in fact has supported publication of Playboy, saying the country now has freedom of the press. So for the moment, Mr. Arnada and Ponti Corolus, who looks after the financial side of their publishing company, Velvet Silver Media, appear to have prevailed.
Mr. Arnada’s case on a charge of purveying indecency remained with the police, but had not been sent to the prosecutors. Before that happened, he said, “I hope they drop the charges.”
The first two issues of 100,000 copies each sold out briskly, even at the relatively steep price of $3.80. The third is doing nicely.
Some of the major advertisers — cigarette and cellphone companies, and brands of perfume, sunglasses and watches — who fled the second issue, afraid of threats from the Islamic Defenders Front, returned for the third issue.
Mr. Arnada, a self-described party boy, said a prominent Balinese nightclub owner had agreed to hold a Playmate event.
But ever the businessman, Mr. Arnada remains cautious. “I don’t say I win,” he said. “I don’t know where the ball is going. Suddenly I’m a suspect, and other publications with nude pictures are having a good life.”