Jakarta (AsiaNews) – The University of Gadjah Mada (UGM), the oldest and most prestigious university in the city of Yogyakarta, planned to require gifted students who apply for next academic year to abide by a special protocol and be able to recite and be fluent in the Holy Scripture. However, following protests, the university (picture 1) decided to drop the requirement.
Dr Eko Suwardi, head of the Faculty of Economics and Business, had sent such a proposal (picture 2) to the UGM governing body for their approval. Two days later, an anonymous source posted his letter online sparking harsh criticism.
Although the letter does not specifically refer to the Qurʾān, many people reacted negatively to his proposal calling it backward and discriminatory. Following widespread condemnation on social media, UGM issue a press release on 3 November.
“UGM is fully committed to implement the spirit of a national university based on Pancasila* and the 1945 Constitution,” said UGM spokeswoman Dr Iva Ariani. “Our protocol in recruiting new students is and will always be based on the same spirit. It is thus clear that the proposal is strongly rejected.”
Indonesia is the world’s most populous Muslim country. In recent years its reputation as a tolerant nation has been endangered by the activities of extremist Islamic movements.
Among most Indonesians who practice a moderate form of Islam, the UGM affair has sparked fears of possible Islamist infiltrations in Java's state universities.
Government authorities have repeatedly warned against radical Islamic thinking infiltrating student organisations and activities on campus.
President Joko Widodo and his government have been trying to contain the growing influence of Islamists, especially in Islamic universities and schools.
Last month, the Indonesian parliament approved a law banning civilian organisations that oppose the country’s secular ideology. Hizb-ut-Tahrir (HTI), an organisation promoting the caliphate in Indonesia, was the first group to be dissolved under the law.
In July, Research, Technology and Higher Education Minister Muhammad Nasir sent a circular to Indonesia’s state universities with a warning for the teaching staff. The note urged professors who adopt and practice a rigid view of Islam or who are members of HTI to resign.
"As state employees in universities, you are called to stay faithful to the Republic of Indonesia, which is based on Pancasila and the Constitution of 1945," the letter said.
* Pancasila refers to the idea of pluralism underlying the Indonesian state.