Backing Koran test, Widodo camp says leader that doesn’t understand religion dangerous

Detik News – December 30, 2018
President Widodo performing Islamic prayers (Presidential Palace)
President Widodo performing Islamic prayers (Presidential Palace)

Danu Damarjati, Jakarta – The election campaign team of incumbent President Joko “Jokowi” Widodo and running mate Ma’ruf Amin says that they support the proposed Koran reading test for presidential and vice presidential candidates.

The reason being that an Indonesian leader must be a person that understands the religion practiced by the majority of their people.

“We as a team support it, because Indonesia’s Islamic community is big, like it or not an understanding of the majority religious community must be truly complete, lest they be mishandled”, Widodo-Amin election campaign team deputy chairperson Abdul Kadir Karding told journalists on Monday December 31.

Karding, who is also the chairperson of the Islamic based National Awakening Party (PKB) central leadership board, said that Indonesia, which has an Islamic majority, obviously needs to be led by a person who understands Islam. If an Indonesian leader does not understand Islam then they would be a danger to their own people.

“How could Indonesia with an Islamic majority be led by a person who doesn’t understand religion? It would be difficult, right, dangerous, right! Because such a leader must be immersed in the values and culture [of the majority religion], although they must understand all religious as well”, said Karding.

Karding hopes that the Koran reading test will counter the identity politics which have been used to attack Widodo. According to Karding, Widodo is often attacked by accusations that he criminalises ulama [Islamic leaders], is a member of the banned Indonesian Communist Party (PKI) which doesn’t believe in God and isn’t Islamic. Yet Widodo’s is not a figure like that. A Koran reading test could put an end to these kinds of political identity attacks.

“Up until now the narrative that has emerged is a narrative prioritising the narrative of identity politics rather than programs. Because of this therefore, who knows with the Koran reading [test] it could be reduced”, said Karding.

Karding is appealing to the non-Muslim public not to worry about the Koran reading test. The thing is, the Koran contains the principles of a blessing to all humankind and a blessing for the universe.

The more a person understands Islam the more a person will be tolerant towards all groups. This corresponds to the conditions of Indonesian society which is made up of many groups and is a composite society.

“It doesn’t mean that the leadership [ability] of a leader of a composite society is any less. It will (through the Koran reading test) in fact strengthen, because the principals of Islam are a blessing to all humankind”, he said.

It is certain that Widodo will be able to pass the Koran reading test. Moreover he won’t need any special preparation to undergo the test. “Yes [he[ won’t need any preparation, [he’s] already familiar and can do it. Except those who can’t, those who have to prepare themselves are the ones that can’t”, said Karding.

The Koran reading test proposal came from the Aceh Proselytizing Association Council (Dewan Ikatan Dai Aceh). They proposed the test in order to put an end to the polemic about the Islamic credentials of the presidential and vice presidential candidates.

“We have invited the two presidential tickets to take part in a test of their ability to read the Koran. The Koran reading test will be carried out at the Baiturrahman Great Mosque in Banda Aceh, on January 15, 2019”, said Aceh Proselytizing Association Council leadership board chairperson Tgk Marsyuddin Ishak in Banda Aceh on Saturday December 29. (dnu/knv)

[Translated by James Balowski. The original title of the article was “Tim Jokowi Dukung Tes Baca Quran: Pemimpin Tak Paham Agama, Bahaya!”.]