Under attack from hard-line Islamic groups, Playboy Indonesia shows more skin in its second edition, but its advertising pages were bare in protest. The same religious groups, who did little to help recent quake victims, could become the target of a government crackdown in a country where resurgent fundamentalism has been destabilizing. But there is proof that these religious hard-liners are reading the sexy magazine. And President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono is siding with Playboy.

After Muslim protestors burned the first edition and attacked its advertisers, Playboy picked up and moved to Bali. Balinese are more “open,” the editor in chief says. In the latest edition, several blank pages where ads should appear read: “We dedicate this empty page to our loyal clients who were threatened for putting their ad in this magazine.”

The hard-line Muslim protestors are opening the magazine to glance at the advertisers. They probably do glance at the sultry women (none of them are naked) between the ad pages. They are hard to miss.

The move to Bali, a predominantly Hindu island, gives the editorial staff some added security, but it skipped last month’s edition.

The rancor over Playboy highlights a deeper issue in Indonesia — the growing popularity and strength of radical Islam. It was largely ignored during Indonesia’s transition to democracy until the 2002 Bali bombings. The president, who was security minister under his predecessor Megawati Sukarnopoutri, has decided to crack down on these group. To obtain legal powers to shut down radical movements, he will introduce a legislation to revise a 1985 law that gave Indonesians the freedom to organize.

Among the groups under government scrutiny are the Islam Defenders Front [FPI], which led the protest against Playboy, the Betawi Brotherhood Forum [FBR] and Hizbut Tahrir, The Jakarta Post said.

The pending release of cleric Abu Bakar Bashir, who was held indirectly responsible for the Bali bombings, could set the stage for a showdown between radical Islam and the government.