West Sumatra governor wants local language bible app removed because province is ‘Islam-leaning’

A Holy Bible app translated into Bahasa Minangkabau, the language of the native ethnic group in West Sumatra. Photo: Istimewa
A Holy Bible app translated into Bahasa Minangkabau, the language of the native ethnic group in West Sumatra. Photo: Istimewa

West Sumatra Governor Irwan Prayitno has filed a formal request to the Communications and Information Ministry for the removal of a local language bible app from the Google Play Store, which he said is incompatible with the majority belief of the citizens in the province.

The request was reportedly sent to the ministry on May 28, as confirmed by West Sumatra Provincial Government spokesman Zardi Syahrir yesterday.

“It’s not that we are differentiating religions. But this is the culture. In West Sumatra the culture is Islam-leaning. Based on that, of course we have to respect the culture’s order because culture makes up the personalities of the Minang people,” he said, referring to the ethnic group native to the province.

Bahasa Minangkabau is officially recognized as the local language in the province.

A copy of the formal request has made the rounds online, in which the governor wrote, “the Minang people object to and are troubled by the app.”

According to National Statistics Agency (BPS) data, as of 2019, West Sumatra is home to 5.48 million people. Some 98 percent of the province’s population are Muslim, with a very small minority of Christians mostly residing in the Mentawai Islands.

That said, Indonesia’s constitution, in theory, guarantees religious freedom for adherents of six officially recognized religions, with Islam and Christianity among them. In practice, that guarantee does not always translate to equal rights for all believers.

In this case, such is perhaps evident by the Communications and Information Ministry’s failure to outright reject West Sumatra’s request.

“If it’s in violation of or is not compatible with the state’s ideology, constitution, and laws, then an app, which may appear on digital platforms such as Google, Facebook, Microsoft, Instagram, and others may be taken down,” Communications and Information Minister Johnny G. Plate said.

“To my knowledge the Holy Bible is translated into many languages such as Latin, English, Arabic, Indonesian, Chinese, and more, whether in their lingua franca or in local languages. But the ministry will look into it first.”

West Sumatra has used religion and culture to justify some ultra-conservative policies in recent years, including its plan to ban LGBT communities and behavior, which has yet to pass into official local policy.

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