Indonesia: Non-Muslims must study Koran to marry

world | Feb 09, 2007 | By Asia News

The Indonesian province of West Sumatra has adopted an ordinance to take effect in 2008 requiring all students from elementary through high schools as well as couples to be married to take a written and oral tests on the Koran, or Qur'ān, and this irrespective of their religion.

Guspardi Gaus, who chaired the special provincial commission that developed the ordinance, said a number of gubernatorial decrees would be necessary to implement the regulation, along with changes to school curricula, but the provincial bylaw should apply to every city and regency (district) within the next two years.

“The Mentawai Islands regency is excluded due to the majority of non-Muslims there, but if the people want it, there's no problem,” he said.

Seven out of 19 cities and regencies in West Sumatra have already issued similar regulations. Some regencies also require students to perform prayers in school.

The proposal for the Qur’ānic education ordinance came from the provincial legislature's Commission IV on Education Affairs, whose sitting members represent the National Mandate Party, the United Development Party, the Prosperous Justice Party, the Golkar Party, the Crescent Star Party and the Indonesian Democratic Party of Struggle.

“The ordinance was implemented in response to pressure from the governor, legislators and community figures in the cities and regencies we visited,” said Guspardi.

Guspardi shrugged off suggestions that the ordinance would have negative impacts on non-Muslims.

“Islam is merciful. The more religious one is, the more beneficial he or she will be to others, including followers of other faiths. So it's not a threat, because Islam teaches people to do good amongst themselves. Qur’ānic education is aimed at giving people, especially the younger generation, good morals, so they won't be lured by drugs and other negative activities.”

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