Jakarta clerics to issue fatwa on fake news

By Jonathan Pearlman

An ethnic Chinese man lights incense sticks at the Dharma Bakti Temple in Jakarta, Indonesia. Photo / AP
An ethnic Chinese man lights incense sticks at the Dharma Bakti Temple in Jakarta, Indonesia. Photo / AP

Indonesian clerics are preparing to issue a fatwa against fake news after a series of damaging hoaxes on social media which targeted the Chinese and Christian minorities.

The move follows growing concern in the world's most populous Muslim nation about the phenomenon that has been credited with causing recent ethnic and political tensions.

Some of the spurious items in recent months include:
- a claim that China was using contaminated chilli seeds to wage biological warfare;
- a claim that the design of new bank notes contains an image of the hammer and sickle;
- a claim that the country has been inundated by 10 million Chinese migrant workers (the Government says the number was actually 21,000).

The fake news campaigns have led to public protests and have now prompted the Indonesian Ulema Council to propose a fatwa which would decree that spreading slander and lies is haram, or forbidden.

The move follows increasing tensions ahead of next month's gubernatorial election in Jakarta, the capital.

The Governor, Basuki Tjahaja Purnama, known as Ahok, is a Christian who has been furiously attacked by Islamic hardliners.

His candidacy has fuelled toxic fake reports, including claims his free vaccination programme was an attempt to make girls infertile.

Late last year, he was charged with blasphemy following claims he insulted the Koran. He had accused his opponents of misusing verses in the Koran to attack him.

- Daily Telegraph UK

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