Indonesian clerical body ‘sorry’ over false allegations of apostasy
North Sumatra branch of Ulema council sparks row after official says conversions are rampant in local district
An official from the North Sumatra branch of the Indonesian Ulema Council claimed that many Muslims were being converted to other religions through marriage. (Photo: Unsplash)
A provincial branch of Indonesia’s highest Muslim religious body was forced to apologize on May 17 after coming under fire from local authorities and Christians for indirectly accusing religious minorities of apostasy.
The row started several days earlier when the North Sumatra branch of the Ulema Council claimed that a district in the province had a very alarming rate of cases of apostasy.
Muhammad Hatta, who heads the council’s local religious propagation office, said over the weekend he had been told of a large number of Muslims abandoning their faith in Langkat district.
Despite a lack of hard data confirming this, he said “it was very alarming”.
According to him, there have been attempts to convert local Muslims to other religions through marriage and other methods.
“Sometimes a couple professing Islam and another religion get married in the Islamic way, but after the Muslim is forced to adhere to his partner’s religion,” Indonesian-language news portal detick said. com.
He referred to a case in which a 30-year-old Muslim woman was allegedly forced to convert to Christianity after marrying a Protestant from the district.
However, his claims were fiercely denied by a local official and a Catholic Church leader.
Acting district chief Syah Afandin acknowledged Muslim woman had converted to Christianity but claimed ‘she was the only one’ and ‘there is no attempt at organized apostasy “.
He said Hatta’s remarks were very inflammatory, “because what really happened was the Muslim woman went out with the Christian man, left her parents’ house for six months to be with him, converted to Christianity and was married to him by a Protestant pastor”.
He also said the Muslim woman’s parents filed a police report which was dismissed as they had no authority to deal with the matter.
Speaking to UCA News on May 17, Reverend Ahmad Sajli DK Pinem, general secretary of the North Sumatra branch of the Communion of Churches in Indonesia, criticized the claim that the claim of the local council of ulema was exaggerated.
Commenting on the conversion of the Muslim woman, he said: “Conversion is a personal matter. It has nothing to do with others. »
He said the woman’s family may be disappointed with his decision. “Or maybe they want something else. I do not know.”
He also called on Christians in the district not to be provoked by the Ulema Council’s assertion of large-scale conversions, he said.
The North Sumatra chapter of the MUI finally issued a clarification on May 17 following the criticism.
Its chairman, Zulkifli Ahmad Dian, apologized for the confusion and said the district had in fact not registered any attempt at mass apostasy.