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Jakarta Post

Ailing Ma’ruf pulls out of Malaysian summit

  • Dian Septiari
    Dian Septiari

    The Jakarta Post

Jakarta   /   Wed, December 18, 2019   /   04:43 pm
Ailing Ma’ruf pulls out of Malaysian summit Vice President Ma'ruf Amin (left) speaking to journalists at the Vice Presidential Office in Jakarta on Nov. 8. (Antara/Akbar Nugroho Gumay)

Vice President Ma’ruf Amin canceled his planned visit to Kuala Lumpur this week because of exhaustion, his office announced, in the latest blow to Malaysia’s attempt to consolidate views among Muslim-majority nations on issues relevant to the Muslim ummah (civilization).

The former supreme leader of Nahdlatul Ulama (NU), Indonesia’s largest Muslim group, had to forgo the Kuala Lumpur Summit at the advice of state physicians, vice presidential spokesman Masduki Baidlowi said on Wednesday.

"We regret to announce that the Vice President cannot attend the proceedings at the Kuala Lumpur Summit," Masduki told reporters at the Presidential Palace in Jakarta, as reported by kompas.com.

A team of presidential doctors had recommended Ma’ruf against attending the event after a health examination indicated he was exhausted from the sheer amount of state duties. “It was because the Vice President’s work and travel arrangements were tightly scheduled,” Masduki said.

Ma’ruf is currently resting in his official residence in Menteng, Central Jakarta, he added.

The 2019 Kuala Lumpur Summit was expected to involve various heads of state and government of Muslim nations to discuss global issues relevant to the Muslim world, including the Rohingya refugee crisis in Myanmar and the alleged persecution of Uighur Muslims in China, as well as the dispute in Kashmir and conflict in the Middle East.

The host, Malaysia’s Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad, planned to give his views on the pertinent issues that should concern the Muslim world, as would Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan.

Meanwhile, Pakistani Prime Minister Imran Khan also canceled his attendance of the summit at the last minute. Reuters reported that Khan had pulled out because of pressure from Saudi Arabia, although Kuala Lumpur denies this. The Malaysian government also refuted accusations that the summit was intended to replace the Organization of Islamic Cooperation (OIC).

“The KL Summit [...] is not intended to create a new bloc as alluded to by some of its critics,” the Prime Minister’s Office said in a statement issued on Tuesday.

Saudi officials have said the kingdom decided not to attend the summit because it was not the appropriate forum to address matters of importance to the world's 1.75 billion Muslims.

The absence of Saudi Arabia, the birthplace of Islam, demonstrates just some of the divisions within the Muslim world. The OIC has been criticized by some for aligning too much with Saudi policy, which experts believe is partly shaped by the kingdom’s ties with the United States and their mutual contempt for Iran.

Ma’ruf, a respected Muslim cleric tasked with overseeing Indonesia’s fight against violent extremism, would have provided a measure of balance at the KL summit. The world’s largest Muslim-majority nation tends to remain neutral in OIC infighting and has even gone against the grain on issues such as the Rohingya refugee crisis in Myanmar, even as Jakarta is receiving flak for its muted response to the alleged persecution of Uighurs in China.

Ma’ruf’s poor health could also spell trouble for President Joko “Jokowi” Widodo, who had relied on his erstwhile second-in-command Jusuf Kalla to represent him at international gatherings like the United Nations General Assembly, which Jokowi has never attended. (tjs)