Indonesian police ordered the cancellation Wednesday of a conference of gay activists from across Asia scheduled for this weekend, saying it posed a threat to public order.
National police spokesman Brig. Gen. Sulistyo Ishak said the conference, organized by the International Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Trans and Intersex Association, or ILGA, could prompt violent protests by conservative Muslim groups.
The ban was issued by police in Surabaya, East Java's capital, where the three-day conference was to be held, he said. The decision was made after considering public objections by Muslim groups and the Indonesian Ulema Council, an influential board of Muslim clerics, he said.
"There are indications that the event could trigger a social crisis and cause public unrest,'' Ishak said. "This ban was issued for the sake of public order.''
Poedjiati Tan, head of the organizing committee, said more than 150 activists representing 100 organizations in 16 Asian countries planned to attend the conference.
Tan said the committee is trying to appeal the decision with police and religious leaders, arguing that the conference was meant to raise awareness of social issues faced by gays.
"We want to convince Indonesian authorities and religious leaders that we only want to talk about social problems related to this minority group,'' she said. "We are seeking direction and a way out of our problems in health, education and issues of discrimination.''
However, Abdussomad Bukhori, a prominent member of the cleric council, said the board would oppose any kind of gay event.
"The event will hurt Indonesian Muslims because lesbians and gays are contrary to Islamic teaching,'' he said. "We will continue to reject any kind of homosexual event.''
Homosexuality is not illegal in Indonesia, but remains a sensitive issue in the socially conservative, Muslim-majority nation. At the same time, most of its society, which follows a moderate form of Islam, is tolerant, with gay and transsexual entertainers often appearing on television shows.
The ILGA is a worldwide federation of more than 560 local, national and international organizations. Regional ILGA conferences have been held in India, the Philippines and Thailand in the past.