A gathering of 700 imans, or Islamic clerics, issued a non-binding ruling on the use of Facebook by Muslims after a two-day meeting, declaring that "Facebook is haram (or forbidden) if it is used for gossiping and spreading lies," Nabil Haroen, a spokesman for the organizers said, and that users also could not ask overtly intimate questions or in anyway encourage "vulgar behavior".
"We forbid the use of Facebook, Friendster and other social networking sites unless they are being used to foster Islamic teaching," a spokesman for the clerics, Abdul Muid Shohib said.
The edict warned that sites such as Facebook can lead to pornography and "obscenity".
Indonesia is a secular nation of 235 million people, 90 percent of whom are Muslim, and Facebook is the top-ranked site in the country with an estimated 831,000 Facebook users, beating out even search engines Yahoo and Google.
Shohib acknowledged that the networking site, where people can set up their own profile pages and share comments and pictures with their friends, was also popular among students and imams at Indonesia's conservative Islamic schools.
"We realise that the virtual world is hard to control," he said.
The clerics will monitor the use of such websites and will urge the government to close them down if they became a threat to Islamic teachings.
The clerics also noted that there were positive aspects to social networking sites, by "erasing space and time constraints" and allowing couples to get to know — before they get married — if they really are well-suited.
Though an edict by the clerics does not carry any legal weight, it could be endorsed by the influential Ulema Council, which recently issued rulings against smoking and yoga.
While the decisions of the conference wouldn't have any legal weight, Facebook still spoke out against the negative connotations. Facebook spokeswoman Debbie Frost said, “We have seen many people and organizations use Facebook to advance a positive agenda”.
AFP, Indonesian Muslim clerics frown at Facebook , 23 May 2009, http://www.google.com/hostednews/afp/article/ALeqM5jtjhtlZQ6rgnzDe005obQ...
AP, Indonesian imams OK Facebook - but no flirting! 22 May 2009, http://www.google.com/hostednews/ap/article/ALeqM5jVKz1vrKgxjEwyiWuW3NeE...