The Indonesian Council of Ulema (MUI) has issued a fatwa that finds President Joko Widodo's, center, universal healthcare social insurance to be out of line with Shariah principles. (Antara Photo/Sigid Kurniawan)

Islamic Scholars: MUI Fatwa on Health Insurance Will Have Little Effect

BY :KENNIAL CAROLINE LAIA

AUGUST 03, 2015

Jakarta. Islamic scholars are playing down the impact of a recent religious edict, or fatwa, issued by the Indonesian Council of Ulema (MUI), on President Joko Widodo's universal healthcare insurance program.

The scholars say they doubt the fatwa will disrupt the recently started national social-security program.

Last week, MUI, the highest body of Islamic clerics in the country, issued a fatwa that says the National Healthcare Guarantee (JKN) program as administered by the Social Security Agency (BPJS) is not in line with Islamic precepts.

The social-security program was deemed to contain elements of uncertainty (gharar), gambling (maisir) and usury (riba), which are not acceptable in Islam. JKN is part of the incipient National Social Security System (SJSN).

"BPJS's implementation, especially its provisions that involve cross-party contracts, fails to comply with Shariah principles," MUI announced on Wednesday.

However, Azyumardi Azra, former rector of Jakarta's Syarif Hidayatullah State Islamic University (UIN) and an influential expert, takes issue with MUI's fatwa. He thinks the fatwa will not impact JKN in any meaningful way.

"The fatwa is counterproductive and has little effect," Azyumardi told the Jakarta Globe over the weekend. "There's a lack of understanding about universal healthcare social insurance in Indonesia."

"JKN is not an insurance as we commonly understand the word," the UIN professor added. "It is a social insurance administered by the government, and that's where the misunderstanding comes from."

Although MUI's fatwa raised some concern after its announcement, Azyumardi said he was not worried about the fate of JKN. "Most Indonesians are wise enough to discriminate between beneficial government programs and harmful ones," he said.

"These days, people are more concerned about benefits and entitlements so it's unlikely we'll see a significant fallout from the fatwa," Azyumardi said. "Besides, it's not legally binding on the government; it's a religious opinion," Azyumardi said. "Whoever feels the fatwa suits him can follow it. Whoever doesn't feel that way should not feel bound by it."

Senior Nahdlatul Ulama (NU) figure Salahuddin Wahid, also known as Gus Solah, echoed the sentiment, saying the fatwa will likely not adversely affect the social-security program.

"The fatwa won't affect the implementation of JKN much," Gus Solah said on Monday.

"It doesn't have social or political impact on Jokowi's program," he added, using President Joko's popular appellation.

After the fatwa created a controversy among Indonesians, MUI backtracked last week by stating that JKN was merely inconsistent with Islamic precepts, but not haram.

"The context isn't about whether JKN is haram; there's a misunderstanding here," Jaih Mubarok, deputy chair of MUI's Shariah council, said on Friday, as quoted by news portal Tribunnews.com. "The fatwa merely emphasizes that the program is not according to Shariah law."

"Indonesians who have registered with JKN may continue their membership," Jaih said.

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