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Calls for Quran Test of Indonesian Presidential Candidates Faces Criticism By Muslim Scholars

The invitation that was sent to both presidential candidates asks them to read Al-Fatiha (the first surah in Quran) and then another surah that will be determined by the organizer.

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Indonesia, quran
A man reads the Koran at Istiqlal mosque in Jakarta, July 24, 2012. VOA

A recent call for a Quran test in Aceh province for Indonesian presidential candidates is facing strong criticism by Muslim scholars, who say the move would undermine racial unity.

On Saturday, the Council of Preachers Association in Aceh sent an invitation to both presidential candidates in the April 2019 vote — incumbent Joko Widodo and opponent Prabowo Subianto — to attend a Quran recitation test in the capital of Aceh province on January 15. The chairman of that council, Marsyuddin Ishak, told VOA that the test is important to reveal the true image of the presidential candidates as well as continue a tradition in their province, the only one that implement the Sharia-law in Indonesia.

Quran recitation is a requirement to compete in local elections in Aceh.

” Our leaders in here — the governor, the member of parliament and other councils — are all tested to read the Quran. The next president will be our leader too, so we want to know their capability in reading Quran as our local leaders in here,” said Marsyuddin.

Indonesia, quran
Indonesian President Joko Widodo, center right, walks and his running mate Ma’ruf Amin during a ceremony marking the kick off of the campaign period for next year’s election in Jakarta, Sept. 23, 2018. VOA

However, former president of Syarif Hidayatullah State Islamic University in Jakarta, Dr. Komaruddin Hidayat, told VOA that the test is unnecessary and exaggerates the importance of religion.

“I really regret it. Our lives must be based on a constitution. Understanding and learning more about our religion is important, but it doesn’t mean that we fail our live if we can’t read the Quran,” he said.

“Religion never became the standard to graduate from school or to get a job. I give you another example : if we want to test an airplane pilot, we test his knowledge on the airplane not about his ability to read the Quran. The same case with the presidential election.”

He adds that it’s better if any test was based on the candidates’ sensitivity to people of different religions and how will he fight for the rights of minorities.

Dr. Rumadi Ahmad, an official with the country’s largest Muslim organization Nahdlatul Ulama, told VOA that the Quran recitation test is a clear example of politicizing religion.

Quran
A worker looks checks printing paper for the Koran near the Sunan Ampel mosque in Surabaya, Indonesia East Java province, July 27, 2011. VOA

“This is an exaggeration of religion in politics. We don’t have to use the capability to read the Quran as an issue in the coming election. This is a clear tendency to politicize religion. It’s dangerous and will arouse hatred among people of various races and religions in the country,” said Rumadi.

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The invitation that was sent to both presidential candidates asks them to read Al-Fatiha (the first surah in Quran) and then another surah that will be determined by the organizer.

According to Marsyuddin Ishak, Joko Widodo’s team has replied to the invitation by saying that they will consider it and discuss it further. Prabowo has not replied. (VOA)

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Hindus in Ayodhya Donate Land to Muslims for Burial Ground to Pave Way for a Solution to Ram Temple Dispute

The land has been donated in Belarikhan village under the Gosaiganj Assembly constituency here

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burial ground, ayodhya
The land has been donated in Belarikhan village under the Gosaiganj Assembly constituency here. Wikimedia Commons

In a gesture that could ease tension between Hindus and Muslim and, perhaps, pave the way for a solution to the Ram temple dispute, Hindus in Uttar Pradesh’s Ayodhya district have donated land to Muslims for a burial ground.

The land has been donated in Belarikhan village under the Gosaiganj Assembly constituency here. The land had been a bone of contention between the two communities for years until now. Surya Kumar Jhinkan Maharaj, a local seer, and eight other shareholders, signed the registered deed for 1.25 bissas of land on June 20 to bury the dispute forever.

The other signatories to the land deed are Ram Prakash Bablu, Ram Singar Pandey, Ram Shabad, Jiya Ram, Subhash Chandra, Rita Devi, Vindhyachal and Awadhesh Pandey.

ayodhya, burial ground
The other signatories to the land deed are Ram Prakash Bablu, Ram Singar Pandey, Ram Shabad, Jiya Ram, Subhash Chandra, Rita Devi, Vindhyachal and Awadhesh Pandey. Wikimedia Commons

“The land belonged to Hindus as per records. It is by the side of a graveyard and some Muslims have buried their dead on the land. There were disputes and tension. But now, we have settled the matter,” said Jhinkan Maharaj.

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The deed is now in favour of the Qabristan Committee, Gosainganj and it will soon be entered in revenue records,” said Vais Ansari, President of the Qabristan Committee. Sub-registrar S.B. Singh confirmed the transfer of land to the Muslims for the graveyard and said: “It’s a gift from the Hindu community through a proper deed and stamp duty.”

Khabbu Tiwari, the local BJP MLA who took the initiative, said: “The tradition of Hindu-Muslim brotherhood here is not new. This was a small token of love from Hindus to Muslims. I hope this amity will continue.” (IANS)