Jakarta Deputy Governor Basuki "Ahok" Tjahaja Purnama sparked a renewed debate about whether Indonesia should continue requiring citizens to list religious affiliations on their national identity cards (KTP).
He stated his objection to the decades-old policy and said Indonesia should end it, in comments to reporters on December 13th.
"What's the point of mentioning your religion on your ID?" the Jakarta Post quoted Ahok as saying.
Ahok, a member of Indonesia's Christian minority, was responding to questions about his views on a change made by the House of Representatives' (DPR) in late November to the 2004 Civil Administration Law.
The amendment would retain the requirement that Indonesians list their affiliation to one of six officially recognised religions: Islam, Christianity, Roman Catholicism, Hinduism, Buddhism or Confucianism. Those not belonging to any of these religions would state "other" next to the "religion" heading on their identity cards.
Yunika Pradhana, a graduate student at Atma Jaya Catholic University in Jakarta, agreed the "religion" category should be dropped.
"Removing it is a good way to guarantee equality among all citizens. I think it will bring fair competition in public service positions, schools, and jobs," she told Khabar Southeast Asia.
Abolishing the requirement would help minorities become more accepted, Jakarta resident Bagus Wicaksono said.
"There would not be a feeling of alienation among those who are not Muslims," he told Khabar.
"I do not really understand what the function of listing religion is."
But there are others who disagree with Ahok.
Tubagus Robbyansyah, chairman of Nahdlatul Ulama's (NU) regional board in Jakarta, said there was no reason to do away with the policy as in his view, all Indonesian citizens– especially Muslims– have the right to state their religion.
"By knowing somebody's religion, we can be mindful of being tolerant," he said.
For his part, Abdulla Subandi, a cleric in Tangerang, West Java, said including or omitting such religious information would make no difference.
"It would not change people's behaviour," he said. "Instead of debating whether to include religion on ID cards, we should focus on how we can embrace tolerance for followers of different religions," he told Khabar.
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