Muslim cleric investigated after telling supporters Jokowi will ‘legalize adultery’ and destroy country

A viral clip featuring Ustaz Supriyanto (left) telling an audience that the government was planning to “legalize adultery” recently went viral in Indonesia. Screenshot: Twitter
A viral clip featuring Ustaz Supriyanto (left) telling an audience that the government was planning to “legalize adultery” recently went viral in Indonesia. Screenshot: Twitter

Following several scandals and multiple arrests involving women who were filmed telling lies about President Joko Widodo while campaigning door-to-door for rival candidate Prabowo Subianto, an ustaz (Muslim cleric) in the West Java regency of Banyuwangi has been called in for questioning by the police after a video in which he claimed that the government would soon “legalize adultery” went viral.

The video, recorded on Saturday, shows Ustaz Supriyanto speaking to several women at a mosque in Kalibaru Wetan Village.

At one point in the clip, Supriyanto says, “We must fight together, yes. At present the government is preparing a law to legalize adultery. If it passes, our country will be destroyed.”

“So if it is ratified, it is not in accordance with the Pancasila (Indonesia’s founding principles) of the Almighty Godhead,” he says before adding, “Hopefully, Allah SWT will grant candidate number 02 (Prabowo) the win.”

According to police, one of the village’s residents reported Supriyanto’s statement to them after the video had gone viral on social media. The cleric was called in to the Kalibaru Police Station on Monday, although the police chief was careful to say that Supriyanto had not been arrested.

“At this time, we are clarifying with the relevant person from Panwascam. We have not arrested them or secured them. Instead, we clarify,” Kalibaru police chief Jabar said yesterday as quoted by Detik.

Regarding Supriyanto’s statement that the government was preparing a law to “legalize adultery”, first we should make clear that adultery, by and large, is not illegal in Indonesia (the exception is that spouses have legal standing to report their partners to the police for criminal adultery in the case of cheating).

But in Indonesia’s increasingly conservative and religious political climate, falsehoods such as Supriyanto’s are easily spread. In fact, Kalibaru police chief Jabar said that Supriyanto’s statement referenced a video lecture by a senior official from Indonesia’s highest-ranking clerical body, the Indonesian Ulema Council (MUI).

The lecture by Ustaz Tengku Zulkarnain, the vice secretary general of MUI, was on the Bill on the Elimination of Sexual Violence (RUU P-KS) that is currently being considered by parliament and which conservative political parties have tried to block, often by accusing the bill of things not contained in its text such as legalizing homosexuality (which is, also, not actually illegal in Indonesia).

In the video lecture, Zulkarnain asserted that RUU P-KS would require the government to provide contraceptives to young unmarried couples that wanted to have sexual relations, which he equated with the government legalizing adultery.

That argument’s biggest problem (and there are many, obviously) is that RUU P-KS doesn’t contain anything about giving contraceptives to young unmarried people, an admission that Zulkarnain made on Twitter today (apparently after reading the text of the bill for the first time).


“After reviewing the contents of RUUP-KS, I did not find the article on the provision of contraceptives by the Government to youths and youth couples who want to have conjugal relations. I hereby revoke the contents of my lecture on this matter. And apologize for getting the wrong input.”

One might suspect that Supriyanto being questioned by police yesterday regarding a potential violation of the law for spreading the “legalize adultery” lie might have led to today’s admission of ignorance by Zulkarnain on Twitter (although there’s no direct evidence to show it).

Theoretically, Zulkarnain, like Supriyanto, could face charges of violating campaign law as well as Indonesia’s controversial Law on Electronic Transfers and Information (UU ITE), which criminalizes the spread of hoaxes and slander online.

But it’s unlikely the senior MUI official will face charges, especially following his apology. As for Supriyanto, police have not yet announced if he may still face charges or if Zulkarnain’s apology will make a difference. Nonetheless, this incident, along with the previous arrests related to blatant lies told by on-the-ground campaigners, are signs that things could still become very ugly and heated in the run-up to the presidential election on April 17.

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