US cancels trip by LGBTQ envoy to Indonesia after objection

JAKARTA, Indonesia (AP) — The United States has canceled a trip to Indonesia by a special envoy on LGBTQ rights after the country’s most influential Islamic group objected to the visit.

Special envoy Jessica Stern was to have visited Indonesia next week as part of a trip to Southeast Asia.

The Indonesian Ulema Council issued a statement on Friday saying the visit would harm the country’s religious and cultural values.

“As a religious and civilized nation, we are told to respect guests. But we also cannot accept guests whose purpose of coming here is to damage and mess up the noble values of our nation’s religion and culture,” the council’s vice chairman, Anwar Abbas, said in a statement.

The council often issues fatwas, or edicts, including rulings against smoking and yoga. Though not legally binding, many devoted Muslims follow such decrees because ignoring them is considered a sin.

U.S. Ambassador Sung Kim said the U.S. hopes to continue a dialogue on the human rights of LGBTQI+ people, but “after discussions with our counterparts in the Indonesian government, we have decided to cancel Special Envoy Stern’s visit to Indonesia.”

“Countries like Indonesia and the U.S. can learn from one another about how to counter hatred and ensure more prosperous, inclusive societies for all,” he said in a statement.

Indonesian Foreign Ministry spokesperson Teuku Faizasyah said the ministry could not comment further on Stern’s planned visit.

Indonesia, the world’s most populous Muslim nation, does not prohibit LGBTQ rights except in conservative Aceh province. However, the country’s gay and lesbian community has recently come under siege.

Earlier this year, Vice President Ma’ruf Amin said in a speech at a conference of Muslim teachers that LGBTQ activity was a deviant sexual behavior.

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