The Jakarta Post
Amid rising conservatism in the country, South Jakarta Mayor Marullah Matalio wants the teenagers in his area to be more religious to prevent them from getting involved in deliquency.
He decided to initiate a program called Maghrib Mengaji (Quran recital after maghrib prayer) in order to promote local mosques for teenagers. The program aims to increase people’s religious spirit and prevent “social maladjustments” from happening, with mosques serving as “safe houses” for the people.
“Young people may get involved in brawls and drug abuse. This program aims to invite them to mosques where they can be safe,” he told The Jakarta Post on Friday.
Marullah said the program, which he started in August last year, was part of a mental and spiritual counseling program directed not only at teenagers, but also adults. He claimed to have had the idea following a message conveyed by Jakarta Governor Anies Baswedan to revive local traditions.
“Quran recitals after maghrib prayer are actually a long-time tradition among our people. The spirit of the Quran recital tradition has died down these past few years, so we are reviving it,” he said.
Although there has been no direct order from the city administration, the program, through which recitals are held once a week in 65 subdistricts in South Jakarta, has received funding support starting this year.
The Jakarta administration allocated Rp 500,000 (US$35.52) from its city budget for each of the 65 subdistricts every week, totaling Rp 1.43 billion for the program this year. Marullah said the funds were used to employ ustad(Islamic teachers).
Mosques located within a subdistrict take turns hosting the program.
The program had started to bear fruit, claimed 60-year-old West Cilandak subdistrict resident Agus Salim. He noticed there were no longer crowds of young people racing with motorcycles or hanging around the streets of West Cilandak in the past months.
“At least 200 people have joined the program. Not only teenagers, but parents can also join,” said Agus, a caretaker of Darul Ihsan Mosque, commending the recital program.
Similar activities such as subuh (dawn prayer) at mosques have also gained popularity in recent years, with local clerics encouraging people to go to mosques and perform subuh together.
Anies expressed his support for the Maghrib Mengaji program.
“Morally, every good action is worth supporting. We will support any morally good activities,” he told reporters at City Hall on Friday.
Anies’ support for the program can be tracked back to conservative Muslim groups who threw their weight behind him during the 2017 Jakarta gubernatorial elections. In politically charged Islamic movements, such as the 212 movement, which arose during the campaign period, many Islamic preachers encouraged voters to elect a Muslim leader, which was a direct jab at then- Jakarta governor Basuki “Ahok” Tjahaja Purnama, a Christian of Chinese descent.
Observers had also highlighted that Anies and his running mate Sandiaga Uno claimed victory in the election by riding the waves of religious conservatism.
In an apparent move to appease his voters, Anies had also revoked a previous ban to hold religious gatherings at the National Monument (Monas) Park in Central Jakarta.
Jakarta Mental and Spiritual Education Bureau head Hendra Hidayat, however, insisted that the Maghrib Mengaji program was not created based on Anies’ order, but solely the initiative of the South Jakarta mayor.
“There is no governor instruction for the program. So this depends on residents’ awareness in each area. This is actually an old program that is being revived,” he said on Friday. (ars)
This article was originally published in The Jakarta Post's print edition on Jan. 12, 2019, with the title "S. Jakarta encourages teenagers to be more pious".