A web comic depicting gay Muslims disappeared from Instagram and Facebook following objections from the Indonesian government.
Accounts featuring the AlPantuni cartoon were inaccessible on both Instagram and Facebook (the latter owns the former) on either platform as of Wednesday, but Instagram officials tell The Advocate they did not pull the content and close the accounts.
"Instagram did not remove this account," an Instagram spokesperson said. "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."
The Indonesian government maintains they forced Instagram to pull the comic, saying the company acquiesced to their demands.
"Instagram fulfilled the request of the Ministry of Communication and Information to close access to the Alpantuni Instagram account because it contained pornographic content," reads a Wednesday press release from the Indonesian Information and Communications Ministry, written in Indonesian. "The Ministry of Communication and Information appreciated the public who participated in reporting the Alpatuni account through the report feature on Instagram, which accelerated the takedown process."
The Malaysian comic strip was created by artist AlPatuni in collaboration with Il Grande Colibri, an Italian organization dedicated to increasing representation for LGBTI individuals. The Indonesian-language comic can now be viewed on the organization's website.
The strip first appeared on Instagram in January and immediately spurred protests, according to The New York Times.
"Being L.G.B.T. is a psychological illness that needs to be cured, and this comic is promoting it," Muhyiddin Junaidi of the Council of Ulemas, a quasi-governmental body of Muslim scholars, told the Times.
Pier Cesare Notari, of il Grande Colibri, dismissed the notion the comics were pornographic. Some of the strips depict characters in sexual situations, but Notari said it's the stories of the main character confronting a homophobic society that led to its censorship.
"In fact, his stories of a homophobic, violent and hypocritical society are confirmed first of all by the homophobic, violent and hypocritical comments that attack them. His unpleasant, vulgar and excessive stories are the faithful photograph of an unpleasant and vulgar reality," he writes in Italian. "To stop the cartoonist, [Indonesian Communications] Minister Rudiantara is ready for anything, even to completely obscure Instagram in the country, although 62 million Indonesians are registered in this social network."
Coconuts Jakarta reports the Indonesian government has previously threatened to shut down the social media network over offensive content. The English-language news site said the comic has chronicled stories inspired by real life events for LGBTQ individuals in Indonesia. One storyline follows a closeted man who is married to a woman. Another follows a figure who gets used by men sexually until ultimately converting and becoming a homophobic religious zealot.