Ya'cob Billiocta – 212 Alumni Brotherhood Secretary General Bernard Abdul Jabbar believes that the Koran reading test for prospective presidential (capres) and vice presidential candidates (cawapres) proposed by the Aceh Proselytizing Association Council is not relevant in national elections.
The application of Koran reading tests, he said, is more appropriate in provinces such as Aceh which represents the only province that applies Islamic law.
"There with mayors, regents or governors regulations on Koran reading tests can be applied", said Jabbar in a release issued on Tuesday January 1.
He therefore believes that the test proposed by the Aceh Proselytizing Association Council does not need to be applied in the presidential elections. Because, he said, only Aceh has such a regulation so it is natural that they apply it there.
"I terms of [applying it] throughout [the country] of course in the future it may be possible to require the Koran reading test for Muslim candidates, but for the moment it cannot be implemented", he continued.
The issue of Koran reading tests for presidential candidates, he continued, does not need to be debated any further. Moreover, he said, the proposal will only create rather complex problems.
"Currently if there are Koran reading tests, for example, if neither [candidate] can [read] the Koran, will both be disqualified? Of course not", he said.
"Meaning looking at the conditions and situation today it cannot indeed be applied yet for capres and cawapres, although for Muslim [candidates] in the future it is indeed possible, yes the test could be applied for them", he said.
Because, he continued, if a head of state had a different religious belief from the [Islamic] majority would it still be applied? Moreover, there is no law which regulates Koran reading tests.
"For example if there was a [candidate] with a different religion, it would also not be required, prevailing laws do not have the requirement that a capres must [be able to] read the Koran, there are no [such stipulations] in the UU Pemilu [election law]. If for example it was implemented and perhaps a Christian became a capres will they also be tested with a Bible [reading test], how would that be? They wouldn't right", he said.
Speaking separately, politician Andre Rosiade from Prabowo Subianto's Greater Indonesia Movement Party (Gerindra) believes that it is no longer ethical to debate religious issues in 2019 presidential election.
"Of course we express our thanks and appreciation for the invitation [to take part in the Koran reading test in Aceh]. But I feel that [the debate on] religious issues does not need to be prolonged any further, because the four capres and cawapres are all Muslims. On the 15th [of January when the test is to be held] it's not likely that we will attend because Pak [Mr] Prabowo will be taking a break [from campaigning] to prepare with the [election campaign] team", said Rosiade. (cob)
The Presidium 212 were the organisers of the so-call Defend Islam actions in 2017 which succeeded in mobilising massive protests against former Jakarta Governor Basuki "Ahok" Tjahaja Purnama – an ethnic Chinese Christian – demanding he be charged with blasphemy and calling on the public not vote for a non-Muslim leader. The protests subsequently led to him being jailed on trumped up blasphemy charges and loosing the Jakarta gubernatorial election to the Prabowo Subianto backed Anies Baswedan-Sandiaga Uno ticket.
More recent actions organised by the 212 billed as purely "religious" events have likewise been used to attack incumbent President Joko "Jokowi" Widodo – who they accuse of being anti-Muslim – and to campaign for Prabowo's presidential bid.
Some of Prabowo's supporters from hard-line Islamic groups such as the 212 however may be concerned over the idea that their "Muslim" candidate's Islamic credentials might be publically scrutinised after a number of recent reports in the Indonesian media have accused Prabowo of being unable to perform Islamic prayers properly or being a convert to Islam and therefore "less Muslim" than his Muslim born rival Widodo.
[Translated by James Balowski. The original title of the article was "Tes Baca Alquran untuk Capres Cawapres Dinilai Tak Relevan".]