Six Catholic schools in Blitar municipality, East Java, have finally given in to a local ordinance and will provide Islamic lessons for their Muslim students.
The city ordinance requires all Muslim students to be able to read and write Koranic verses.
The head of the Religious Affairs Ministry’s office in Blitar, Imam Mukhlis, told The Jakarta Post on Wednesday that the six schools had finally agreed to provide Islamic teachers for their Muslim students.
“We met today [Tuesday] and everything is just fine and there is no problem. They are willing to carry out the city ordinance,” he said.
A representative of the Yohanes Gabriel Foundation confirmed the decision and said that the Islamic lessons would be delivered by competent teachers and conducted outside the schools.
The Blitar city administration previously threatened to close down Diponogoro High School, the Catholic Vocational High School, Santa Maria Kindergarten, Santa Maria Elementary School, the Catholic Elementary School and Yos Sudarso Junior High School for their refusal to provide Islamic lessons to their Muslim students.
The Blitar Mayoral Decree No. 8/2012 requires all Muslim students be able to read and write Koranic verses.
The decree is based on Government Regulation No. 55/2007 on religious teaching. The government regulation, in turn, is based on Law No. 20/2003 on the national education system.
Article 12 of the education law stipulates that every student in an educational institution is entitled to receive religious education in accordance with his or her religion, imparted by an educator of the same religion.
Article 55, however, allows community-based education to be held in accordance with the specific religious, social and cultural norms for the benefit of the community.
The law’s Article 12 is reiterated by Article 4 (2) of the government regulation while Article 6 regulates the provision of religious teaching at both state and private schools.
Article 6 (3) says that if a privately run school cannot provide religious teachers, the central government or regional administration is obliged to provide religious teachers for the school.
Commenting on the regulation, Aan Ansori, activist with the Islamic Anti-Discrimination Network and the GusDurian Network, demanded Blitar Mayor Samanhudi Anwar revoke his decree.
Speaking to the Post Aan posed the question, “If the regulation is upheld, will Islamic schools, which are more exclusive than Catholic schools when it comes to accepting students of different faiths, also be required to provide Buddhist, Christian or Hindu lessons for their non-Muslim students?”
He characterized the regulation as silly because it could not be implemented in Islamic schools.
“We also demand the government revise Government Regulation No. 55/2007 to bring it into line with the 1945 Constitution, which guarantees the freedom of religion and faith,” Aan said.
Separately, the Indonesia Ulema Council’s East Java chapter chairman, Abdusomad Buchori, said his institution would urge other regions in the province to issue similar decrees so that all schools, be they state-run or managed by Christian foundations, provide Islamic lessons for their Muslim students.
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