No corruption case is likely to shock us any more following the recent revelation by the Corruption Eradication Commission (KPK) that the Religious Affairs Ministry's acquisition of Qur'an books has been tainted by bribery.
Corruption is a despicable act. To get their objective, corruptors never wait in line, they ignore processes, values and perseverance and take short cuts to reach their goal. But the embezzlement in the supply of Qur'ans at the Religious Affairs Ministry is beyond despicable. We are not concerned as much about their methods as their final objective, and the unscrupulous people behind it.
In the eyes of corruptors, the Qur'an seems to be no longer sacred, but merely a commodity for commercial gain. Ironically, the abusers are no less than people from the very government ministry that should understand such matters best.
The corruption in the supply of Qur'ans is believed to have taken place at the Muslim Community Guidance Directorate General at the Religious Affairs Ministry in 2010. At the time, Nasaruddin Umar now Religious Affairs Deputy Minister was director-general of Muslim Community Guidance. So far, the KPK has named two suspects.
At a time when religious symbols play such an important part in daily life, we naturally are curious about the 'courage' behind the actions of these corrupt officials. In a nation that holds mass Qur'an recitations, where people worry the damage Lady Gaga would inflict on the morals of youth and where banks jostle to include religious (shariah) elements in their products, such 'courage' leaves a strange impression.
The use of religion as a social identity has ebbed and flowed in the last few years, but this has frequently led us to become fixated on things that provide a veneer of religiosity at the expense of more profound religious values. If these values are not internalized, officials from any ministry will have no hesitation in acting in direct contradiction to religious teachings.
Whether we like to admit it or not, this 'courage' is also an extension of the decline in morals that has recently assailed the Religious Affairs Ministry, now led by Suryadarma Ali. It is seen as a ministry that has had little success in ridding itself of corruption. In August 2002, the attorney general received a report of alleged corruption involving Rp116 billion in the ministry's Islamic institutionalization development directorate general. In March 2003, the Supreme Audit Agency (BPK) uncovered embezzlement in the acquisition of supplies for the 2001/2002 financial year, totaling Rp16 billion.
The faithful are now questioning the use of the Abadi Umat Fund (DAU). The Religious Affairs Ministry seems to indicate a lack of transparency in how it uses this fund, which comes from the interest on Haj payment deposits.
It is not only the faithful. In 2003, the Finance Development Controller (BPKP) ran into problems auditing the DAU, then valued at around Rp5 trillion to Rp6 trillion. And the public knows that a senior Religious Affairs Ministry official was found guilty of corruption in organizing the Haj pilgrimage. That official concerned was no less than then-Religious Affairs Minister Agil al-Munawar.
If things have become so bad, there is no alternative for the ministry but to do something about its terrible image. It must open itself up and establish an effective, responsive, fast and transparent system to receive complaints from the public. This would encourage people to watch for and report on indications of corruption.
Today, we are shaken because the targets of corruption are holy books. If the sacred can be corrupted, what about the profane? People will no doubt come to the conclusion that if the Religious Affairs Ministry is corrupt, other ministries could be similarly corrupt.
No. 45/12, July 03, 2012