The rich should marry people from low-income families in order to reduce the country’s poverty rate, this according to Indonesia’s Coordinating Human Development and Culture Minister Muhadjir Effendy.
The minister made such a controversial suggestion yesterday at a national health conference in the capital. This morning he explained that it would not entail any compulsion.
In his address, Muhadjir said that in Indonesia, the world’s most populous Muslim country, religious teachings on equivalent marriage partners are often misinterpreted.
“What if the poor look for other poor people to marry? There will be more poor families. This is a problem in Indonesia,” he said.
To tackle the issue, “The Religious Affairs Minister should issue a fatwa (religious edict) so that the poor look for the rich and vice versa” when contemplating marriage.
Citing government data, the minister said that the number of poor households in the archipelago stood at around 5 million, 9.4 per cent of the total (57.1 million).
However, a fatwa is not the responsibility of the Religious Affairs Minister in Indonesia. The task usually falls on Muslim clerical authorities such as the Islamic Council of Indonesian Ulemas (MUI), after extensive studies by the Fatwa Commission, or people with expertise in certain areas of law.
In addition to the fatwa, Muhadjir also proposed a premarital certification programme whereby couples that are not yet economically stable but intend to marry would receive a pre-employment card under a programme launched by President Joko “Jokowi” Widodo. The minister’s statements immediately sparked a heated debate among Indonesians.
This morning, Muhadjir met with reporters at his Ministry noting that his suggestion was but one element in an hour-long speech and that he was not serious when calling for a fatwa on marriage between the wealthy and the poor.
Whilst the minister said that people are free to follow his suggestion as a way to tackled the country’s poverty, if Indonesia’s top Islamic authorities consider the fatwa idea, they would be validating it.
Recently, the World Bank reported that around 115 million Indonesians, 45 per cent of the population, have not yet achieved economic security and middle-class status. Progress has nonetheless been made in reducing poverty to less than 10 per cent over the past 15 years, whilst the middle class has grown from 7 to 20 per cent of the population.