Indonesian ulema tell 42-year-old man named ‘god’ to change his name or lose his rights
by Mathias Hariyadi
Born in Banyuwangi, East Java, the man in the middle of the controversy was given the name Tuhan at birth. The latter means god in the local language. For religious extremists, he should pick an ordinary name or lose his basic rights. Any changes to his name is the purview of civil authorities.

Jakarta (AsiaNews) - The Indonesian Ulema Council (Majelis Ulama Indonesia or MUI) has attacked an Indonesian man because of his name, Tuhan, which means god (deity) in the local language, warning that unless he changed his name he could lose rights and services guaranteed by the state.

A carpenter by profession, Tuhan, 42, was born in Banyuwangi Regency (District), in East Java province. For the past few weeks, he has become famous on the internet and social media because of a dispute over his birth name, a controversy that has caused the ire of extremists.

Local sources said that the leader of the local MUI chapter, Kiai Hajj Abdussomad Bukhori, directly warned Tuhan to change his name and get one that is not controversial or open to misunderstanding.

For the radical Islamic leader, he "is violating (religious) ethics" and the authorities should give him "a new identity." Otherwise, he should be denied certain basic rights, including "the ability to do business or open a bank account."

The MUI leader is adamant that "Tuhan should not be used as a given name. The same goes for Satan.”

One example of what happens with names is Ghofur, which means ‘God the Merciful’. To avoid being called by that name, Abdul (follower) is placed before it, so that the name becomes ‘Follower of God, the Merciful’.

Hence, Bukhori went to the Vital Statistics Office to get Tuhan’s name struck off the register so that he can be denied basic services.

Surprised by the controversy surrounding his name, Tuhan (pictured) said he does not know why his parents gave him that name but that so far it had not caused him any trouble. “If possible I’d like to continue to be called Tuhan, since it has been part of my personal identity since birth,” he explained.

Indonesia is the world’s most populous Muslim nation. In recent years, local authorities have buckled under the pressure of the Ulema Council, which has claimed the right to act as the guardian of the nation’s morals and customs. One example of this is Aceh where women cannot wear tight pants or short skirts.

In March 2011, the Ulema Council also lashed out at flag raising "because Muhammad never did it." Previously, the group had slammed Facebook, the popular online social networking service for being amoral, as well as yoga, smoking, and the right to vote, particularly for women.