By: Mochamad Ilyas
Media reports on corruption cases involving state agencies in the legislative and executive branches of government and the judiciary remain prevalent, plaguing the fasting month of Ramadhan, which is scheduled to begin either today or Saturday.
If we do not want to fall into the category of a failed state, we have to free ourselves from the sticky mud of corruption that has caused millions of people to suffer.
Many experts have tried to unravel the root causes of corrupt behavior. Some say weak supervision is the culprit, while others blame corruption on lack of transparency and weak law enforcement.
But certainly, all of us agree that until this moment corruption is being committed everywhere; like the old saying goes, “the dogs may bark, but the caravan moves on”. We have even heard people grumble “diligent to worship but corruption goes on” in response to the widespread practice of graft.
Such expressions carry the message that spiritual values are not strong enough to curtail the evil of corruption in our country. Just a reminder of a recent case: The alleged mark-up in the procurement of Korans involving the Religious Affairs Ministry serves as clear proof of how even religious symbols are subject to corrupt practices.
Furthermore, the Koran graft case shows that anybody can commit graft, and that those who practice it do not care about what they corrupt.
At this point, we may question why religious values persistently promoted by clerics and preachers fail to stop corruption.
Indeed, attempting to answer the question is not easy. Symbolically, the Indonesian Ulema Council (MUI) has attempted to halt the massive corruption in the country. Recently, the council issued an edict (fatwa), which allows the state to confiscate assets belonging to perpetrators of corruption and money laundering.
At the beginning of this year, a number of interfaith leaders renewed their call on the nation to fight corruption. However, the efforts have apparently not worked.
In don’t think the fatwa or the interfaith call will be effective even if they are voiced louder.
Moreover, these efforts may be counterproductive because more people are becoming cynical of moral appeals. What people need most is concrete and tangible action to root out corruption in accordance with the law.
The blessed month of Ramadhan is an ideal time to design and implement real action in combating corruption. For example, it will be more appreciated if Islamic mass organizations initiate a joint fund-raising program to build a new building for the Corruption Eradication Commission (KPK) rather than conduct raids on the city’s nightlife and entertainment centers; raids that have been rampant during the Islamic fasting month in the past.
The KPK seems to have fallen prey to an act of reprisal by House of Representatives lawmakers, who are reluctant to approve the government budget for construction of a new building for the anti-graft body. Showing no fear, however, the commission has been targeting the lawmakers.
It would be better for the followers of hard-line Islamic groups to “sweep” the perpetrators of corruption rather than visitors to amusement centers.
It would be very useful if they served as tipsters of corrupt practices involving state officials rather than provoke acts of violence in the name of God.
The public would be very supportive of these groups if they called for a boycott of all things relating to alleged perpetrators of corruption. In short, groups could formulate a short-term anti-corruption program during this holy month and a long-term working commitment to sustain the fight against graft.
Such initiatives would help Islamic organizations restore their muruah (dignity) and public confidence. The public would change their view of the groups, which have become infamous for perpetrating acts of violence and vandalism.
We still believe that religion cannot be separated from the country’s nation-building process, both ideologically and historically. Ramadhan as a spiritual and cultural asset of the nation can actually give a new spirit in our efforts to eradicate corruption.
In this context, let us muse the saying of the Prophet: “Many are the people who fast but who gain nothing from their fast except hunger and thirst”.
Notice: This opinion article was displayed in an online newspaper, The Jakarta Post, in Jakarta, Indonesia, on Friday, 20 July 2012. It is also able to be searched at: www.thejakartapost.com [accessed in Bandung, West Java, Indonesia: 21 July 2012].
The writer is pursuing a doctoral degree at the Islamic State University (UIN) Syarif Hidayatullah in Jakarta, Indonesia.