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Indonesia turns to Muslim scholars in Covid-19 fight

Disaster mitigation agency to work with Indonesian Ulema Council to raise awareness about pandemic, other calamities

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Indonesia turns to Muslim scholars in Covid-19 fight

National Disaster Mitigation Agency (BNPB) head Doni Monardo (second left) and deputy Indonesian Ulema Council chairman Muhyiddin Junaidi (second right) after signing a memorandum of understanding on disaster mitigation. (Photo courtesy of BNPB/Ignatius Toto Satrio)

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Indonesian authorities have decided to work with Muslim scholars, or ulemas, in battling the continuing spread of the coronavirus and other disasters.

National Disaster Mitigation Agency (BNPB) chief Doni Monardo and the deputy chairman of the Indonesian Ulema Council (MUI), Muhyiddin Junaidi, signed a memorandum of understanding (MoU) on disaster management, including the pandemic, on June 8. 

As a non-ministerial institution, the BNPB has agreed to distribute information on disaster mitigation from an Islamic perspective drafted by the MUI in disaster-prone areas.

Meanwhile, the MUI, as an organization contributing to national development, must draft fatwas (religious edicts) regarding disasters and provide Islamic teachers.

“We need a collective awareness so that we can do something together to strengthen us in facing disasters, particularly at this moment when Indonesia is not only highly prone to natural disasters but also the Covid-19 pandemic,” Monardo said.

Such collective awareness can be achieved with the contribution of religious leaders, he said.

“The MoU … is expected to bridge BNPB efforts to strengthen society through an Islamic perspective,” he said.

Speaking to UCA News on June 9, Junaidi said the MUI will hold awareness programs, particularly on discipline among Muslims.

“Discipline is one of the weaknesses faced by the Indonesian nation. We want Muslims to be disciplined in terms of, among others, maintaining cleanness,” he said.

Quran readings, study groups, discussions and lectures can be used as mediums for awareness programs, he said.

Meanwhile, Muhammad Cholil Nafis, secretary of the MUI’s anti-Covid-19 body, said the BNPB acknowledged that religious leaders can play a significant role in fighting the virus.

“That is why Doni Monardo contacted us — to discuss how our respective Covid-19 task forces can work together,” he told UCA News.

The MUI formed a Covid-19 task force in mid-April to help the government fight the pandemic.

Nafis, who is also head of the MUI’s Islamic Preaching Desk, said religious leaders are “the only ones who can make people more aware of the pandemic.”

“Religious leaders’ role, in this case, is needed. It is because religious leaders can embrace their followers without any coercion,” he said.

As of June 9, Indonesia had recorded 33,076 Covid-19 cases and 1,923 deaths. The country recorded its highest one-day rise with 1,043 new confirmed cases on June 9, the day after the government started easing large-scale social restrictions in several provinces.

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