Communications Minister Under Fire for Response to Boko Haram Question i

Communication and Information Technology Minister Tifatul Sembiring. (JG Photo/Safir Makki)

By : Camelia Pasandaran & Benjamin Soloway | on 5:58 PM May 12, 2014
Category : News, Politics, Featured

Tifatul Sembiring, Minister of Communications and Information. (JG Photo/Safir Makki) Communications Minister and Prosperous Justice Party official Tifatul Sembiring. (JG Photo/Safir Makki)

Jakarta. Gaffe-prone Communications Minister Tifatul Sembiring stoked ire on Twitter after he appeared to make light of a question about a website supporting Nigeria-based militant group Boko Haram — responsible for thousands of killings and the recent kidnapping of over 200 schoolgirls — even as he moved to ban a popular video sharing site over supposedly "pornographic" content.

Radical Islamist website Arrahmah has praised the terrorist group.

https://twitter.com/sahaL_AS/status/465701897752813568

“Mr. @tifsembiring, you promised to fight pro-terrorism websites. How will you respond against @arrahmah which is pro-BokoHaram?” Islamic Liberal Network (JIL) activist Akhmad Sahal tweeted on Sunday.

“Do you want a serious one or a joke?” Tifatul, a senior member and former chairman of the the Islamist leaning Prosperous Justice Party (PKS), responded.

Sahal said that he expected a serious, official answer.

Tifatul wrote:

https://twitter.com/tifsembiring/status/465323355311067136

“[You] go to school far away and still ask about halal-haram, please bro... :D.”

Sahal is based at the University of Pennsylvania in the United States, according to his twitter information.

He asked if Tifatul's tweet constituted the official government response.

"He he he. I haven't answered about Boko Haram [because] it became a fuss. You yourself know whether kidnapping is halal or haram. Don't you have other work to do, commentators... :D,” the Communications Minister wrote.

The exchange sparked outrage over its seeming flippancy, and it coincided with the ministry's controversial decision to ban popular video sharing site Vimeo, which caused a furor of its own.

Political activist Fadjroel Rachman tweeted: “Boko Haram = halal-haram? For God's sake minister.”

Tifatul is no stranger to online controversy or off-color responses to tragedy.

In March, he attracted attention for following a pornographic Twitter account “by accident.”

In November of 2010, followers accused him of hypocrisy after he was seen shaking hands with US First Lady Michelle Obama after stating that he did not shake hands with women for religious reasons.

“I tried to to prevent [the handshake] but Mrs. Michelle held her hands too far toward me, so we touched,” he tweeted at the time.

In 2009, he blamed immorality for a Sumatra earthquake and other natural disasters.

He has over 756,000 Twitter followers.

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