Several regional branches of the Indonesian Ulema Council (MUI), the country's highest self-proclaimed Islamic authority, say the doomsday-themed Hollywood movie 2012 must be banned because it runs counter to their beliefs.
MUI South Kalimantan chairman Asywadie Syukur said Tuesday the government had to pay serious attention to matters that could mislead or confuse Muslims, particularly a movie like 2012, which is now playing at theaters nationwide.
"On the other hand, Muslims should also be careful not get carried away by anything negative or go against religious values," he said.
Members of the MUI's Situbondo, East Java, branch raided several Internet cafes in the area to confiscate pirated DVDs of the movie and prevent Internet users from downloading it.
"We condemn the 2012 doomsday movie because it has caused a lot of unrest in the Situbondo community," said MUI Situbondo MUI head K.H. Abdullah Faqih Gufron, ignorant of the fact that the raids carried out by his people counted as unrest.
He also called on Information and Communications Minister Tifatul Sembiring to issue a ruling banning the movie from spreading through the Internet. He had nothing to say about the DVD piracy.
On Monday, MUI Malang head Mahmud Zubaidi called the movie inappropriate, particularly for Muslims, because "no one but Allah knows when doomsday will come".
He added the movie was misleading and called on Muslims not to watch it.
Renowned cleric Yusuf Mansyur, while stressing he respected other clerics' opinions of the movie, said Muslims who chose to watch 2012 should consider it a work of fiction.
"Just watch it for fun, don't get carried away," he said, which was exactly what the MUI was doing.
Directed by Roland Emmerich and starring John Cusack, 2012 loosely bases its premise on the widely held belief that the ancient Mayans had predicted the end of the world would occur in the year 2012.
The film received critical acclaim from worldwide moviegoers for its spectacular special effects, which put its production cost at between US$200 million and $260 million.
The MUI's trademark knee-jerk reaction drew widespread ridicule from those who said the council was overreacting to a Hollywood blockbuster that no one in their right mind would take for fact.
"The MUI's call for a ban is pointless and not needed," renowned film director Garin Nugroho told kompas.com in Jakarta on Tuesday.
"They should instead issue such bans on issues impacting social welfare and justice, such as on corruption."
Islamic Liberal Network (JIL) program officer Saidiman Ahmad said the excuse spouted by MUI Malang to condemn 2012 was "stupid".
"The Malang branch argued that a scene in the movie shows four people surviving inside a church, while a mosque is completely destroyed," he said.
"That's just very stupid; thousands of people survive in the movie, and none of them are in a church. Nor is there a single scene showing a destroyed mosque. Rather, it's Saint Peter's Basilica in Rome that crumbles in the movie."
Moviegoer Eduard Andre told The Jakarta Post he only agreed with the MUI on the point that the movie was junk plot-wise.
"The movie's just a typical Hollywood type, showing Americans as the heroes," he said.
"I only watched it for the special effects, which were awesome. However, other than that, I never felt that the movie was trying to plant in my mind some dogmatic belief or religious sentiments."
This is not the first time the MUI has stuck its foot in its gaping big mouth.
The council was previously taken to task by society at large for issuing bans on the social-networking site Facebook and on the practicing of yoga, a move that it aped from the Malaysian council of clerics.
The council had also condemned Steven Spielberg's Schindler's List, saying it was pro-Zionist, as though its own anti-Semitic stance was admirable.