Remember the popular children's cartoon Nussa, which drew some controversy earlier this year due to allegations of promoting Islamic radicalism? It feels a bit like we hopped on a time machine with a similar narrative brewing recently, that we can't help but feel bad toward the characters and the people behind this show.
Nussa itself is a popular children's animation centered on the titular main character, a 9-year-old amputee, and his little sister, 5-year-old Rarra. The show actively promotes Islamic values, particularly in the context of the life of a young family.
A movie based on the show is slated for cinematic release this year, with a world premiere at the 25th edition of the coveted Bucheon International Fantastic Film Festival (BIFAN) – which will be held on July 8-18 – under the Family Zone category. Directed by Bony Wirasmono, Nussa is a joint project between production house Visinema Pictures and Jakarta-based animation studio The Little Giantz.
The most recent controversy started last weekend when Eko Kuntadhi, a writer and staunch government supporter, tweeted saying that the Islamic-style clothes worn by the main characters Nussa and Rarra promote Taliban values. He also went as far as saying that Nussa will "minimize" what it means to be Indonesian.
"Is this a photo of Indonesian children? It's not. The male clothing is very typical with that of the Taliban's. Afghani children. But the Nussa Rarra film will be promoted all over the world. So that the world thinks Indonesia is a branch of the caliphate. Or part of Taliban rule. What a destructive promotion!" Eko's tweet reads.
"Men wearing daster (night dress). Pants hanging up high. Mountain sandals. White hat (turban). Have you met people who are dressed like that from here? Which crowd are they from? Try looking around you..." another tweet reads.
Eko's tweets have since been met with widespread backlash from Indonesian netizens and public figures.
"You haven't received your share as a commissioner, huh? Hopefully soon, Amen!" comedian Ernest Prakasa tweeted at Eko, alluding to a crowd-pleasing joke that takes a jab on pro-government politicians, buzzers, and celebrities and their seemingly tireless quest to secure seats as high-ranked officials at state-owned enterprises.
Nussa executive producer Angga Sasongko replied to several tweets by Eko, saying that the latter "could only hide behind his thumbs" as he didn't show up after getting invited to discuss the matter in person. Ryan Adriandhy, stand up comedian-turned-animator who works on Nussa, invited Eko to watch the film at the cinema before making claims about the so-called anti-Indonesian values.
Back in January, another pro-government figure Denny Siregar took to Twitter to voice his concern that Nussa serves as propaganda by radical Muslims.
"Just look at what Nussa wears, do Muslim children in Indonesia wear outfits that are worn in the desert?" Denny tweeted, referring to Nussa's trademark thobe.
Denny also said that Nussa is at least partly funded by Felix Siauw, a renowned controversial cleric who has been closely associated with the banned hardline group Hizbut Tahrir Indonesia (HTI) – a point that Eko also brought up in his arguments.
Angga dismissed Denny's accusations then, saying in a tweet that religious figures were not involved in any creative process for the show or movie.