Students wishing to enter junior high schools in Padang, Sumatra, must in future provide a certificate that proves their ability to read and write in Arabic.
The head of the Education Department in Padang, M. Nur Amin, says that this measure is in accordance with local by-law Number 6, 2003 which requires ability in reading the Quran for those in primary/elementary school.
We require primary schools which teach those students who cannot read and write the Quran to issue certificates. Students will not be accepted into junior high without presenting the certificate.
(Kami meminta sekolah dasar melatih siswanya yang belum bisa baca-tulis Al-Quran dan mengeluarkan sertifikat. Siswa tidak akan diterima di SMP jika tidak melampirkan sertifikat itu.)
The law applies to all schools in the province, whether state or private, but affects only Muslim students. One law for Muslims, one for the rest. For Amin the policy is part of Padang's struggle to become a righteous city:
How can the people become good and religiously observant if they can't read the Quran? This way we make sure that there won't be any more graduates from elementary school who can't read the Quran.
(Bagaimana warga bisa beriman dan bertakwa kalau baca Al-Quran saja tidak bisa? Dengan cara ini kami yakin tidak ada lagi lulusan SD yang tidak bisa baca-tulis Al-Quran.)
A small blow struck for the disintegration of the country. One of the things that makes Indonesia "gel" is the fact that most people, most of the time, ignore the differences between themselves and others, especially the religious ones, but some local governments are determined to thwart this and make the differences the defining things about the people, to make them stand out.
February 8th 2007.
West Sumatra's has enacted a new local regulation requiring all Muslim students, and couples intending to get married, to be able to recite the Koran.
February 9th 2007.
The Koran literacy law passed by the West Sumatra legislature will go into effect in 2008, says local MP Guspardi Gaus. The ordinance stipulates that students from elementary through high school, as well as couples who wish to get married, must be able to read and write passages from the Koran.
Gaus, who chaired the special legislative committee that developed the ordinance, said a number of gubernatorial decrees would be necessary to implement the regulation, along with changes to school curricula and syllabuses. Guspardi added that the provincial bylaw acted only as a legal umbrella for cities and regencies in West Sumatra, and he believed every city and regency would implement the bylaw within the next two years.
The Mentawai Islands regency is excluded due to the majority of non-Muslims there, but if the people want it, there's no problem.
Seven out of nineteen cities and regencies in West Sumatra have already issued similar regulations. Some regencies also require students to perform prayers in school.
February 10th 2007.
Saldi Isra, a lawyer, says:
City and regency administrations can use the new local ordinance as a guideline but they don't have to follow it. If they ignore the regulation, it doesn't matter.
Local governments in the province began adopting sharia-inspired laws in 2001. The first was in Solok regency, when Gamawan Fauzi, who is now the province's governor, was regent. The regulation said students must demonstrate Koran-reading skills or show certificates proving they could read the Koran in order to enroll in higher education. Those who lacked the skills must promise to study the Koran either at school or at an outside institution.
Similar regulations were imposed in 2003 in Sawahlunto-Sijunjung, Pasaman and Limapuluh Kota regencies, as well as Padang city (only for primary school students). Pesisir Selatan regency adopted the measure the next year and Agam regency followed suit in 2005.
Almost all of the regulations specify that if a student still cannot read the Koran, or does not have a certificate, within six months or a year, the school has to send warning letters three times. If the student cannot meet the requirements, he or she can then be expelled.
Pasaman and Agam regencies have imposed their regulations on university students as well, while in Sawahlunto-Sijunjung regency, it applies to government employees. In Pasaman regency, a government employee in charge of recording marriages could lose his job if he allows a couple who fail the Koran skills requirement to get married.
Apart from possessing Koran reading skills, students and couples intending to get married in Pesisir Selatan regency must show they know how to pray.
Solok regency is now broadening its religious efforts. Last April, Solok Regent Gusmal requested that all civil servants, military personnel, police officers and employees of state-owned companies read the Koran for five minutes before working. The request, announced in mosques and other public places, also asked people to turn off their televisions between 18.00 and 19.30 and read the Koran at home or at a mosque instead.
The Inter-Community Study Center, a Padang non-governmental organization focusing on pluralism issues, recently conducted a study on the implications of sharia regulations in the province. The group found that at SMAN Gunung Talang senior high school in Solok regency, there were non-Muslim students who could read the Koran, since the skills were among the local content required by their schools.
Since they had no options that fit their religion, they just followed the Koran lesson.
said the group's director Sudarto.
In Pesisir Selatan regency, the group found students were required to join mass prayers at school. A teacher monitored the activity. If a female student skipped the prayer twice on the grounds that she was menstruating, she would be examined, Sudarto said.
What is really happening is, there's different understandings over the regulation. Its implementation has gone beyond the rational, making it seem like this government has no other work to do and tends to be unfair.