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Anti-graft board reveals Koran buying scandal

July 31, 2012

It’s never been clear who’s funding the recent, massive Koran giveaways in traditional non-Muslim countries such as Germany and Hong Kong, although religious ministries or charities from Islamic countries are the likeliest sponsors.

And if recent developments from Indonesia are any indication, one should also wonder how aboveboard the contracts between the Koran printers and the distributors have been.  From Foreign Policy:

In the name of Allah, most gracious and merciful, I steal

Posted By Endy Bayuni Friday, July 6, 2012 – 1:51 PM


Before performing any deed, a good Muslim would say “In the name of Allah, most gracious and most merciful” — either to make sure that he or she is not committing an act of sin, or asking God to show mercy in case a sin is committed. But would a Muslim say that before stealing, too? The bad ones probably do.

The Muslim politicians and bureaucrats involved in the latest scandal over the procurement of a Quran, no doubt would have said bismillah (in the name of God). But while they may believe God will be merciful, don’t expect the public to be so forgiving.

In Indonesia, the country with the world’s largest Muslim population, you don’t go any lower than stealing in the name of God.

The Corruption Eradication Commission (KPK) has named Zulkarnaen Djabar, a Golkar Party member of the House of Representatives, and his son as suspects in the scandal. It’s possible, though, that the case may soon expand to include more suspects.

Zulkarnaen, a member of the House’s Budget Committee and Commission VIII (which deals with religious and social affairs), played an active role in pushing the House to approve hefty increases in the budget allocated for the government’s program to procure Qurans. Zulkarnaen had a personal interest in the project: His son, Dendi Prasetya, got the lucrative contract to supply Qurans to the Ministry of Religious Affairs.

Other Commission VIII members have since confessed that they each received over 500 copies of the Quran from the Ministry. None of them saw this as a kickback for securing the budget increases. Some claimed they were simply helping the Ministry to distribute Qurans (no doubt to appease voters before the 2014 elections).

Others claimed that the free, government-distributed Qurans would help promote moderation and tolerance in Islam as part of the campaign to fight radicalism. This claim has been refuted by an Islamic group that found that the government-issued Qurans carry translations that promote violence and radicalism.

At a cost of Rp 1 million ($106) each, these volumes of the Holy Book must be among the most expensive Qurans ever found in Indonesia.

Public reaction to the news has been largely muted — primarily because no one was really that surprised. It’s not the first time that God’s name has been corrupted. The Ministry of Religious Affairs has already earned a reputation as one of the most corrupt state institutions, according to a Corruption Eradication Survey conducted in 2011.

Rather than a fortress of morality, the Ministry of Religious Affairs has long since become a bastion of hypocrisy.

To many bureaucrats and politicians, God has become a commercial project, whether it’s procuring Qurans, or dispatching a huge Indonesian delegation to the haj pilgrimage in Mecca, the most lucrative of all government projects. Not surprisingly, the Ministry of Religious Affairs has jealously guarded this project in spite of repeated calls to leave it to an independent agency that would subject it to closer scrutiny to ensure better management.

Indonesia sends more than 200,000 pilgrims to Saudi Arabia each year, the largest contingent from any country. As far as business goes, this is a captive market over which the government holds a monopoly. The ministry rakes in huge profits from the project, and it now sits atop a $4 billion endowment.

The temptation is just too big…

There is more at this link, particularly about corruption in Indonesia’s hajj allowances.

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