Jakarta – The chairperson of Indonesia's peak Islamic body the Indonesian Ulama Council (MUI), Utang Ranuwijaya, says that Ministry of Religious Affairs and Ministry of Home Affairs Joint Regulation (PBM) Number 9 and 8 of 2006 on the Establishment of Houses of Worship does not need to be replaced by a new regulation.
Ranuwijaya conveyed this in response to a proposal by Minister of Religion Yaqut Cholil Qouumas who wants to simplify permits for the construction of houses of worship so applicants only need to have a permit from the Religious Affairs Ministry (Kemenag), without getting approval from the Forum for Religious Harmony (FKUB).
"There's no need for another regulation or even a regulation that will replace the PBM", said Ranuwijaya said when contacted on Wednesday June 7.
Ranuwijaya claims that the regulations on the construction of houses of worship that are currently in force are quite effective in maintaining harmony between religious communities.
He also believes that that the FKUB, which has been formed in regions throughout Indonesia, has succeeded in carrying out its functions of managing the regulation on establishing houses of worship.
"The PBM itself has been the subject of judicial reviews several times, and its position has not been shaken. Meaning, the PBM's position is quite strong if seen from various aspects", said Ranuwijaya.
Ranuwijaya also alluded to problems is several regions related to the establishment of houses of worship because the applicants have not fulfilled the requirements under the current regulation.
"According to our observations, it is because the processes and procedures undertaken by the applicants are problematic or violate the rules", said Ranuwijaya.
Like Ranuwijaya, MUI Deputy Chairperson Anwar Abbas is concerned that the plan will actually trigger a commotion and acts of violence in the community.
"I only want to ask the question, in the event of a commotion and acts of violence in the community as a result of the policies made by a minister then who should be blamed, the community or the minister?", asked Abbas when contacted on Wednesday.
Abbas said that up until now religious councils in Indonesia have established guidelines so that people can live peacefully.
He is concerned that it will be a disaster if Minister Qouumas continues to insist on revising the regulations on the construction of houses of worship because it will go against existing agreements.
"So in my opinion it will bring down calamity and disaster. For this reason, so that this country is safe and there are no problems, [first] invite the religious councils again for discussion and dialogue", Abbas said.
Earlier, Qouumas said he had a plan so that the establishment of houses of worship only needed to get a recommendation from the Ministry of Religion. This rule would be simpler than the old rule that requires a recommendation from the FKUB.
He said the Ministry of Religion had proposed that a new Presidential Regulation (Perpres) be drafted for this new regulation.
"So we would remove one recommendation. So in the Perpres that we are proposing, only one recommendation from the Ministry of Religion is enough, so there's no [recommendation needed from the] FKUB. Because often the more recommendations [that are needed] the more difficult it is", said Qouumas during a working meeting with the House of Representatives (DPR) Commission VIII on Monday June 5. (rzr/bmw)
The 2006 joint ministerial decree or regulation on houses of worship issued by the Ministry of Religious Affairs and the Ministry of Home Affairs obliges a congregation to obtain the approval from at least 60 households in the immediate vicinity of a planned new house of worship. This stipulation, however, has been widely criticised as making it next to impossible for minority faith congregations to build houses of worship in the Muslim-dominated areas. The decree also mandated the establishment of Religious Harmony Forums (FKUB) at the provincial, regency and municipal level, which should include representatives from the main religious groups in a region and are tasked with facilitating permits for houses of worship and responding to religious disputes. The FKUB however has frequently been accused of catering to hard-line Islamic groups and arbitrarily reaching "agreements" not to allow majority religions to build houses of worship.
[Translated by James Balowski. The original title of the article was "MUI Kritik Yaqut: Aturan Pembangunan Rumah Ibadah Tak Perlu Diganti".]