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Jakarta Muslims seek removal of Christian official

Appointment of sub-district chief doesn't make cultural sense, they say

Jakarta Muslims seek removal of Christian official

Susan Jasmine Zulkifli's appointment has created controversy

Ryan Dagur, Jakarta

August 28, 2013

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Hundreds of Muslims in South Jakarta converged on their local administrative office today, demanding the removal of their recently appointed sub-district chief who is a Christian.

They say it does not make sense for a Christian official to be appointed a sub-district chief in a predominantly Muslim area.

Susan Jasmine Zulkifli, 43, was appointed Lenteng Agun sub-district chief by Jakarta Governor, Joko Widodo, in June. The district is home to some 55,000 residents.

“This rally aims to show our concern. We object to Zulkifli, because she was appointed by the Jakarta administration without it considering local cultural issues,” said Naser Nasrullah, who organized Wednesday’s rally.

“[On Monday] we submitted 2,300 signatures and 1,500 copies of our identity cards, but [the Jakarta administration] ignored it,” Nasrullah said.

He said it was not right for Muslims to have Zulkifli as their leader because she would not be able to attend various religious activities held throughout the year at the district’s religious venues, such as mosques, houses of prayer and Islamic teaching groups.

The protesters cited one recent example when Zulkifll failed to attend traditional get-togethers held during Ramadan. Zulkifli later said she had not been invited.

“I would definitely join such events if the residents allowed me, but some residents told me that in Islam a non-Muslim is prohibited from entering a mosque,” the Jakarta Post newspaper quoted her as saying.

Ervan Purwanto, another protester, said it would be better for Zulkifli if she was transferred to a district where there were more Christians.

“We don’t want her to face difficulties because many residents don’t want her,” he said. 

Other residents in Lenteng Agun, however, have voiced support for Zulkifli.

A group calling itself the Forum of Lenteng Agung Residents for Reformation on Wednesday said they supported Zulkifli’s appointment as part of a citywide effort to promote good governance.

It said it would gather local residents to discuss a solution to the opposition to her.

Jakarta Deputy Governor Basuki Tjahaja Purnama, said the city had no intention of removing Zulkifli.

"The Jakarta administration cannot dismiss an official because of their ethnic, racial or religious backgrounds," he said on Tuesday. "It runs against the constitution."

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