Grand Imam of Istiqlal Mosque Calls for Preservation of Indonesia’s Diversity

Should We Display Our Religion on the ‘KTP’ ID Card?

Jakarta, – If you are an Indonesian national and are 17 years old or older, you have to obtain a national identity card (KTP), even if you stay in a foreign country. For Indonesians within the country, KTP allows you to do lots of administrative matters such as obtaining a passport, driving license (SIM), taxpayer identification numbers (NPWP), insurance policy, property ownership certificate, and marriage certificate. This is according to Article 13 of Law No. 23 Year 206 on Population Administration.

Indeed, similar ID cards are also issued by many other countries for their citizens. But, here is probably one uniqueness of Indonesia’s KTP: the card mentions its owner’s religion. This is despite that for a long-term, some people have suggested that one’s religion status not displayed on the KTP. Among those people were reportedly then presidential candidate Joko ‘Jokowi’ Widodo and acting Jakarta governor Basuki ‘Ahok’ Tjahaja Purnama.

Ahok said as reportedt in June 2014 by the Jakarta Globe, “Why do we need a religion status on the identification card? Since I was a lawmaker (in the House of Representatives), I have said that I did not want to have a religion status on the ID card and we have a presidential candidate who agrees.” But, such suggestions have not been heeded so far.

In fact, the legal obligation to state one’s religion in the KTP had irritated Indonesians who are not followers of the six religions that are officially recognized by the state: Islam, Hindu, Protestant, Catholic, Buddhist, and Confucian. And, those against the ID card policy included followers of indigenous faiths and others like the Ahmaddiyyah. As such, they have no choice other than accepting their KTP mentioning them as followers of one of the six official religions.

Meanwhile, it is already public knowledge that the majority would oppose any decision to scrap religion from the KTP. Nasaruddin Umar, Jakarta’s Istiqlal Mosque grand imam, said certain groups of ‘Muslim activists’ would surely oppose the scrapping of religion from KTP on grounds that such a policy contradicts the state ideology Pancasila (Five Principles). The ideology’s first belief is ‘Faith in One Almighty God.’ Nasaruddin’s warning is in fact nothing new. It had been widely held that, along with the four other principles namely Humanity, Nationalism, Democracy and Social Justice, Pancasila serves as the most fundamental basis for ‘molding’ Indonesians as genuine citizens.

In his opinion article published by last Friday (6/4), Nasaruddin described the reason why scrapping religion from KTP could cause a chaotic situation especially within the Muslim community.

For Muslims, he said, KTP that mentions its holder’s religion helps ensure that Muslims get married only with fellow Muslims as prescribed by Islam. Similarly, the ID card guarantees that a Muslim heir bequeath his or her heritage to a Muslim only. And then, when one dies, his or her KTP helps make sure that he or she will be buried in a graveyard for the respective religion.

Meanwhile, the government has decided to provide indigenous faith adherents with specially designed KTP. But, it is still unclear whether their faith will be clearly printed in the ID card.

Leo Jegho, a Jakarta-based journalist and GIV Senior Correspondent.