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Patients decry fraudulent practices of religious healers in Indonesia

Muslim cleric is the latest in growing number of corruption cases

Patients decry fraudulent practices of religious healers in Indonesia

Muslims gather to pray and commemorate the birthday of the Prophet Muhammad (AFP photo/Adek Berry)

Jakarta Globe

March 20, 2014

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Ellya Rossa’s search for a traditional healer to treat a chronic heart ailment brought her to Guntur Bumi, an ustad, or Islamic cleric, who has often appeared in television commercials plugging his “alternative healing” clinic.

She first came to the ustad, popularly known as UGB, on February 10, after making a telephone appointment and being told that she only had to pay Rp 500,000 (US$44).

Once at the clinic in Tangerang, however, the experience was nothing like she’d imagined. The ustad claimed a spell had been cast on her. He charged her Rp 11 million to cure her, her husband and their two children — although he’d never even seen the latter, and Ellya’s husband hadn’t claimed to be ill.

He also told her to read through the entire Koran that very night, or if she couldn’t, to pay him an extra Rp 1 million.

He said if she refused to pay, she would continue to be cursed by the spell.

“He told me that patients who could afford to pay him but claimed otherwise ended up getting into an accident or dying,” Ellya says.

“I felt in my heart that I was being cheated, but I wanted to be cured. I told myself there was no way an ustad would cheat someone.”

Guntur is now the subject of a probe by the Indonesian Council of Ulema (MUI), the country’s highest Islamic authority, after dozens of complaints by former patients like Ellya who claimed they were extorted and never healed by the ustad.

The case is one of several high-profile scandals revolving around popular clerics accused of exploiting the influence they wield over their followers, or of violating the trust vested in them by the public.

In Guntur’s case, says the MUI, the cleric has apologized to those “who felt that they were cheated,” and has signed a declaration to that effect.

“Hopefully UGB will change his ways and comply with the terms of the declaration,” says Cholil Nafis, an MUI deputy chairman.

In the declaration, read out at the MUI headquarter on March 12, the ustad said he would “seek penance for all the wrong that I have done.”

He also promised to stop practicing as an alternative healer and to close down all his clinics throughout the country

Guntur said he would also pay back any patients who felt they had a legitimate grievance — but only on the condition that they were able to prove the money, gold and other items they’d paid him had not been given in good faith.

Despite the tacit admission of Guntur’s fraud, the police have not launched a criminal investigation.

Sr. Comr. Rikwanto, a spokesman for the Jakarta Police, says an investigation can only begin if one or more of the former patients file a report with the police.

Full story: Religious leaders accused of misleading, abusing followers

Source: Jakarta Globe

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