Riau governor employs fingerprint scanners to verify Muslim officials do mandatory dawn prayers

Photo illustration. Credit: Rachmaninoff (CC-BY-SA-3.0)
Photo illustration. Credit: Rachmaninoff (CC-BY-SA-3.0)

One illustration of the creeping Islamization in Indonesia that some observers have warned about is the number of local and regional governments that have made prayers a work obligation for Muslim civil servants. Such policies have been implemented, to varying degrees, in the South Sumatran capital of Palembang and the West Sumatran capital Padang.

While those policies created some controversy, a new mandatory prayer regulation implemented by Riau Islands (Kepri) Governor Nurdin Basirun is immediately sparking a backlash even among his own officials due to the way it is meant to be enforced — with fingerprint scanners placed at mosques.

The regulation, which was passed last month, requires Muslim civil servants at Echelon II level to perform the fajr (dawn prayer) every Friday at a mosque designated by the government and equipped with a fingerprint scanner to verify their attendance.

Several Riau government officials said that, while they supported the mandatory prayer policy, they did not agree with the fingerprinting aspect of it.

“I prayed at dawn in a congregation at the mosque, joining with the governor, but I did not get fingerprinted. Prayer is an obligation, the relationship between myself and Allah, so there is no need to check on absence,” said Riau Health Department Head Tjetjep Yudiana yesterday as quoted by state-run news agency Antara.

However, Tjetjep defended the mandatory prayer policy generally on the grounds that it would increase faith and piety among officials.

The Head of the Kepri Sports Agency, Meifrizon, told Antara that he supported Governor Nurdin’s decree and confirmed that prayer attendance would be used to measure the performance of department heads and absenteeism would negatively influence their regional performance allowances.

Others outside of the Riau government have also criticized the regulation for overstepping the government’s domain, including Marsudi Syuhud, the acting head of the Indonesian Ulema Council (MUI) and Muhammadiyah Secretary General Abdul Mu’ti.

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