VP candidate Ma’ruf protested by disabled activist group over negative use of the words ‘deaf’ and ‘blind’

As both the head of the influential Indonesian Ulema Council (MUI) and the running mate of President Joko Widodo in the 2019 election, Ma’ruf Amin is one of the most powerful people in Indonesia and there are not many who would directly criticize him for fear of disrespecting the revered religious figure or offending his many followers.

But today, a group of nine people stood outside of MUI’s office in Jakarta to voice their protest against Ma’ruf or, more accurately, the words he had used.

The small group consisted of members of Indonesian Blindness Social Action Association (Pasti) who were protesting over a speech Ma’ruf had given on Saturday to campaign supporters in which he called those who always criticized President Joko Widodo’s work as budek (deaf) and buta (blind).

“Through this moral movement, we are demanding KH Ma’ruf Amin to clarify and apologize to the disabled, especially blind and deaf people,” said Pasti Chairman Arif Nur Jamal today as quoted by CNN Indonesia.

Shortly after the speech, a few other disabled activists called Ma’ruf out for his derogatory use of the words, which then led to Ma’ruf clarifying and saying he had meant no offense to them.

“I am not talking about blind in a (physical) context. I am just saying, those who do not recognize it are like blind people because they do not want to see. I think those people are bad because they do not want to hear. Like a mute person who does not want to reveal the truth. That’s all. There are also sentences that sound like that in the Quran. Just look at the Quran if you don’t believe it,” Ma’ruf told the media on Tuesday.

In spite of that clarification, Arif said his fellow activists still felt offended and humiliated by Ma’ruf’s words. Another protester, Yogi Matsoni, said that Ma’ruf justifying his words using the Quran was too much.

“This is a moral movement, not just directed at Ma’ruf Amin but to everybody, campaigning has limits including not offending the disabled,” Yogi said.

The demonstrators gave Ma’ruf eight days to apologize and said that if he did not do so they could organize follow-up protests or take legal action.

While Ma’ruf probably didn’t mean any offense to the disabled with his remarks, he should at least respect that that was the effect his words had on them and, as a respected and influential figure, consider whether it’s worth apologizing for that reason.

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