MUI View on Houses of Worship Law

Apr 8th, 2006, in News, by

Interview with the deputy chairman of the Indonesian Ulema Council (MUI), Ma’ruf Amin, on the houses of worship law, from the Jakarta Post.

Some doubt the joint ministerial decree will promote tolerance among the followers of different religions.

The decree is an implementation of the 1945 Constitution and Article 22 of the Regional Autonomy Law, which requires local administrations to help maintain national unity. National unity can be achieved if all Indonesians are able to promote religious harmony. Therefore, we need a clear regulation and guidelines to make it a reality. I don’t see why some people think the decree will spark a dispute among worshipers.

Critics say the decree restricts religious followers because there needs to be a congregation of at least 90 for a house of worship to be established.

Actually, all of the interfaith leaders involved in the drafting of the decree agreed to the minimum number of congregation members. Representatives from Bali, who represent Hinduism, had initially insisted that congregations be made up of no less than 100 families.

The idea came upon learning that the Bali provincial administration implemented a decree making such a requirement.

After a tough debate, the interfaith leaders finally agreed that a permit to establish a house of worship could be given to a group of worshipers if they managed to convince the government there would be a permanent congregation of at least 90. The agreement, of course, was reached with respect for Christian and Catholic communities.

Instead of promoting tolerance, it is feared the decree will curb freedom of worship, because a religious group would need to get the approval of at least 60 local residents to build a house of worship.

Initially, we set the figure at about 70. We reduced it because we believe the establishment of a house of worship should not disrupt the harmony that exists in society. Such an establishment should not spark conflicts in the community. It must be understood that we, MUI ulema, have promoted tolerance to the followers of other religions, particularly Christians and Catholics, so that we finally bowed to their demands. We also agreed that our Christian and Catholic brothers and sisters could build a temporary house of worship if they failed to meet the requirements due to any of a number of reasons, or in the case of an emergency. Of course, we expect them to build a permanent house of worship within two years.

Do you think those requirements will prevent conflicts between different religious groups in the future?

We have committed to respecting people’s rights regardless of their religion. We should not create difficulties for religious followers to profess their beliefs. But when it comes to the need to establish a place of worship, they have to respect other people’s rights. Therefore, we need certain requirements to prevent people from violating others’ rights. The establishment of places of worship should not be at the risk of religious harmony, security and order in society, and, of course, it should not violate the prevailing regulations.

There have been cases when attacks on places of worship were perpetrated by outsiders as once happened to Ahmadiyah’s property in Parung, West Java.

There has never been any attack on houses of worship. No data has been presented to me on that. But, anyway, Ahmadiyah is widely known as a heretical sect. Should the government protect them? Vandalism, if any has occured [against Ahmadiyah property], is an act of violence, so the government should not hesitate to take stern action against the perpetrators.

Some say the formulation of the decree is reactionary, which was driven by fears among Muslims of the proselytization of Christianity. Is that true?

We did not draft the decree for such a reason. Even in predominantly Christian countries like the United States and Australia, there are requirements for establishing houses of worship. Moreover, in the two countries the deliberation of the regulation involves the government alone. Isn’t it good that Indonesia invited interfaith leaders to formulate the joint decree?

Anyway, all religious groups in Indonesia, including Islam as the majority, abide by this decree. If non-Muslims feel unhappy over the presence of a mosque near their housing complex, they can lodge a complaint against it.

He has never heard of any church being forced to close. Should get out more. He says he needs some data, here is some. There are a number of dismissive “anyways”, that may be the case but I’m ignoring it thankyou very much. Ahmadiyah is just a “heretical sect” and the question of whether they are allowed to build mosques is sidestepped but his answer is clearly going to be “no”, they are heretics after all. So much for the constitutional right to freedom of religion. See

One Comment on “MUI View on Houses of Worship Law”

  1. pj_bali says:

    The ability of this man to blithely lie on on public record just shows how poorly Indonesian Muslims are served by their leaders. He obviously has no fear of sanction for either the government or the his own congregation and therefore feels free to spout out whatever fancies are in his brain.

    Too bad there is no such thing here as responsible leadership.

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