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Gay Muslim comic gone from Instagram after Indonesia warning

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A man seen holding an anti-LGBT placard during the demonstration.  SOPA Images

Jakarta, Indonesia -- An Instagram account that published comic strips depicting the struggles of gay Muslims in Indonesia has disappeared following a frenzy of outrage online in the world's biggest Muslim nation.

The Ministry of Communications said the account under the username Alpatuni was pornographic, a violation of a law on information and electronic transactions. In a statement Wednesday, the government said Instagram had "fulfilled" its request made in a warning letter for the account to be removed.

Instagram, however, said it had not removed the account. The company said there were many reasons an account may no longer be accessible, including the account holder deleting it, deactivating it or changing the username.

The comics depicted gay characters facing discrimination and abuse, which has become increasingly common in Indonesia since late 2015 when conservative politicians and religious leaders began a campaign of portraying lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people as a threat.

Local media, quoting the communications minister, reported that the ministry would block Instagram in Indonesia if the Alpatuni account wasn't removed.

Censorship and "torture"

The government frequently threatens to block Western social media and Internet companies for content deemed illegal, but has never taken such measures, possibly fearful of a public backlash due to the huge popularity of the services with Indonesians. 

Indonesia has faced backlash from human rights organizations such as Human Rights Watch, which have described the nation's use of caning as a form of state punishment as a "form of torture." 

Canings, in front of large crowds, have been used in the country's Aceh province, where strict Muslim law is enforced by regional Shariah courts, to punish people for "crimes" including homosexuality and prostitution.

Indonesian court sentences gay couple to public caning

Amid an outcry over the public floggings, the Aceh government decided last year to move them indoors, away from public eyes, but the practice has not been officially discontinued.

Historically, Aceh, located at the tip of the island of Sumatra, was the first region in the Indonesian archipelago to adopt Islam after contacts with Arab traders from as early as the 8th century. Its implementation of Shariah law was a concession made by the central government in 2001 as part of efforts to end a decades-long war for independence.