Ulema again asks Catholic schools to teach Islam
A similar demand it made last year in Blitar and Tegal had subsided only after Muslim parents defended Catholic schools, where their children were studying, by emphasizing on the quality of education.
The Indonesian Ulema Council (MUI), a Muslim cleric’s authority on Sharia law, has stirred up a controversy by demanding that Islam be taught in a Catholic school in Central Java’s Klanten.
A similar demand it made last year in Blitar and Tegal had subsided only after Muslim parents defended Catholic schools, where their children were studying, by emphasising on the quality of education in the schools.
Klanten’s MUI leader, Hartoyo, urged all private schools, including Catholic ones, to hire qualified staff to teach Islamic to Muslim students. In his view, the absence of Islamic religious teachers was a grave violation of law because every student should receive lessons on his or her religion.
The local association of private schools, BMPS, agreed with MUI demand. Slamming the lack of Muslim teachers, it demanded that a solution be found and the problem solved "in the best possible way."
Indonesia's private Christian schools are not required to offer courses on Islamic religion or time off to read the Koran, as is the case in state schools. They do however provide seminars and lectures on the Christian religion and catechism.
Muslim students who go to Catholic schools generally attend Islamic religious courses sponsored by their community. School administrators go out of their way to reassure Muslim parents that Catholic schools do not try to "convert" students and that Christian proselytising is banned.
This practice had never been an issue until last year when MUI leaders started threatening Catholic schools with closure unless they taught Islam. The issue got wide coverage in local media. However, for most people, the whole thing was political and not spiritual in nature.
Indonesian authorities in recent years have repeatedly caved in after pressure from MUI, an association that purports to monitor behaviour and morals. In Aceh, a province ruled by Islamic radicals, women cannot wear tight pants or skirts. MUI has been increasingly interfering in ordinary people’s lives.
Earlier in March 2011, MUI lashed at flag raising ceremonies "because Muhammad never did it". Before that, it attacked the popular social networking service Facebook for being ‘amoral’ as well as yoga, smoking and the right to vote, particularly for women.