Indonesia’s Muslims switch to online services for annual sacrifice ritual

Under the Qurbani-saving program, each participating household is given a choice of animal, a cow or bull, with price ranging between $1,000 and $15,000, depending on its weight and breed. (AFP)
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Updated 27 July 2020

Indonesia’s Muslims switch to online services for annual sacrifice ritual

  • Government calls to avoid mass gatherings during Eid Al-Adha to contain COVID-19

JAKARTA: A few weeks before Eid Al-Adha is usually a busy time for Dudi Rustandi, an employee of a private information technology firm based in Indonesia’s capital city of Jakarta. 

For the past 20 years, Rustandi has volunteered at his local mosque in South Tangerang, south of Jakarta, to organize the Qurbani, or annual sacrifice ritual, held on the holiday to mark the end of the Hajj season.

With fellow members of the mosque’s management board, Rustandi coordinates a Qurbani-saving program, by which a household can save between Rp200,000 ($13.7) and Rp500,000 ($34.3) per month. 

Ahead of Eid, the board informs each participating household of their savings balance and confirms their choice of animal for the Qurbani. A cow or bull is sold for a price ranging between $1,000 and $15,000, depending on its weight and breed. Later, the board purchases the animals accordingly before slaughtering them at the mosque complex. 

“Residents of the complex sacrifice at least five cattle in total during Eid Al-Adha every year,” Rustandi told Arab News in a phone interview. 

However, the outbreak of the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) this year has changed the process for Rustandi, his neighbors, and a majority of Muslims in the country. 

Following a quiet celebration of Eid Al-Fitr in May and the cancellation of plans to send a Hajj contingent to Saudi Arabia in June, the Indonesian government has now called on the public to avoid mass gatherings during Eid Al-Adha to limit the spread of the deadly disease.

Rustandi said members of the management board decided to abide by the government’s recommendation, and while three out of 10 members earlier insisted on performing the Qurbani as usual, eventually everyone agreed that the risk involved was far higher than the benefits.

“Anyone can be a carrier of the virus. We cannot guarantee strict physical distancing if we hold the Qurbani at the mosque,” Rustandi said, adding that an insistence on doing so may also propagate fitna (defamation) over an unfounded accusation should anyone involved in the ritual become infected with the virus.

Instead of being performed at the mosque’s complex, the Qurbani will now be held at the Al-Kautsar Mosque, a larger mosque in the area, Rustandi said. 

There are concerns, however, that the mosque’s management will be overwhelmed with a sudden increase in Qurbani animals.

Therefore, Rustandi and his colleagues devised an alternative option to hold the Qurbani online by using services provided by various zakat (charity) organizing bodies.

“Personally, I have conducted Qurbani through the online platform since 2017. It’s easy; I just have to transfer a certain amount of money and let the agency do its job,” he said. 

Rustandi added that now was not the time to launch into a debate “over the principle of correctness or fiqh in committing the ritual,” before stressing the importance of “working together to reduce the risk of a wider transmission.”

Indonesia continues to see more than 1,000 new COVID-19 cases daily, while the total number of confirmed cases stood at more than 97,286 as of Sunday, the highest in East Asia. As many as 4,714 fatalities have been recorded. 

Qurban poses a huge risk for infection as the ritual attracts crowds in the thousands in the country with the world’s largest Muslim population.

According to the Indonesian Agriculture Ministry’s 2019 data, there are 30,359 Qurban sites in 26 out of 34 provinces across the country. An average of 56 people work at each location, slaughtering up to 1.87 million cattle, sheep and goats nationwide.

To avoid a spike in infection numbers, the ministry and the government-backed National Zakat Agency (Baznas) have urged Muslims to conduct the Qurban through an online platform this year. 

Most zakat organizing institutions, as well as major e-commerce players such as Tokopedia and Bukalapak, are now offering online Qurban services for Indonesian Muslims, based on the official recommendation.

Irvan Nugraha, chief marketing officer of Rumah Zakat, a Bandung, West Java-based zakat institution, told Arab News that there is an increase in demand for the agency’s online Qurban services. Rumah Zakat offers two online Qurban options — SuperQurban and Desaku Berqurban — in addition to the standard Qurban services.

Last year, about 85 percent of Rumah Zakat’s 13,000 clients performed Qurban online, said Nugraha. This year, he said that the agency aimed to serve 25,000 clients. Nearly 9,000 customers have been registered as of July 22. “Around 90 percent of them chose our online services,” he said.

During a webinar hosted by Tokopedia on July 22, EcoQurban CEO Zaenal Arifin said that a majority of Muslims have become more confident in performing the sacrifice through online platforms. This is partially due to improved credibility of organizing agencies as they provide customers with comprehensive reports about the ritual and the meat distribution afterwards, he said.

Arifin said that online Qurban services provide ease for the Muslim community over the ongoing social restrictions amid the COVID-19 outbreak. 

As usual, the meat from the slaughtered animals will be distributed to people in need this year, with the addition of those who are affected by the pandemic, Arifin added.


How a new social contract could salvage French secularism

Updated 44 min 31 sec ago

How a new social contract could salvage French secularism

  • SciencesPo teacher David Djaiz wants France to promote civic friendship and reaffirm French values to combat terrorism
  • Arab News en Francais/YouGov survey found young people are more distrusting of French institutions than their older counterparts

PARIS: Violence inspired by radical Islam has created a growing sense of insecurity, fear and Islamophobia in France, which has only fueled the conflation of Islam and Islamism in the public’s consciousness, an Arab News/YouGov poll of French people of Arab origin has found.

On Oct. 29, three people were killed in a stabbing attack near the Notre-Dame basilica in the southern French city of Nice. It followed the beheading of a French school teacher near Paris on Oct. 16, who had used caricatures of the Prophet Mohammed in a lesson about freedom of expression.

The attacks have led to a sharpening of rhetoric, both domestically and on the world stage, which has brought France’s core value of secularism under the spotlight and raised the spectre of cultural conflict.

“It is clear that terrorism is also an act of communication. Added to the barbarity of the modus operandi is a desire to accelerate the break up the society in order to start a war of religion by accrediting the thesis that the Republic persecutes its Muslim citizens,” David Djaiz, an essayist and professor at the prestigious Paris Institute of Political Studies (Sciences Po), told Arab News.

Djaiz believes this is due in part to a mistranslation of French society’s values of secularism. But he is also aware of some deliberate distortions used to serve political ends.

“President Emmanuel Macron spoke of ‘Islamism’ but his words were translated into Arabic using the word ‘Islam,’” Djaiz said, referring to the French president’s remarks in response to the beaheading of teacher Samuel Paty.

As a result, some foreign politicians used these distorted words to sow confusion and to trigger protests and boycotts of French goods, he said.

“Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, for example, has used this discourse in a very cynical way to satisfy his own political agenda,” Djaiz said.

The climate this has created in the wake of the Paris and Nice attacks has only served the interests of jihadist terrorism, which seeks to alienate French Muslims from the rest of the society, he added.

The solution may be multi-pronged. Beyond police and judicial operations to break up Islamist networks, Djaiz wants to see France adopt policies to promote civic friendship and the recognition of French values.

“Every child in this country, regardless of his denominational affiliation, must receive a positive education in the values of the republic and the principles that structure it, and first and foremost the principle of secularism,” he said.

This principle of secularism was conceived by the great figures of the Third Republic, among whom were Protestants, Freemasons and non-believers, to allow the peaceful coexistence of all denominational components of French society.

For a long time, this society was dominated by the Roman Catholic Church, whose dogma influenced the state. But in a society that was becoming more pluralized and complex, republicans sought to separate church and state and allow a diversity of opinions and beliefs to express themselves peacefully.

“From this point of view, secularism is therefore a principle that must be particularly welcoming to Muslims, because it allows everyone to freely exercise their worship by being protected from the pressures of the group,” said Djaiz. This allows the individual to freely worship or to abandon their faith without consequence.  

“Secularism is not at all a revolver pointed at Islam as the Anglo-Saxon media alleges. On the contrary, secularism helps to protect all religious convictions,” said Djaiz.   

But is secularism actually working in reality? Djaiz believes the problem is a widespread misunderstanding of what it means. “This principle must be explained to young children and this task must be entrusted essentially to teachers and all front-line officials in this country,” he said.

“This pedagogy and explanation work has not been sufficiently done, allowing secularism to be considered as an aggressiveness towards Islam whereas this is totally false,” he said.

“But if we are still debating secularism today, a principle that should have been validated for several decades, it is because the republic indulged itself in laxity and laissez-faire and that the Muslims did not grasp this fight.”

Reaffirming the value of secularism must be made a priority, says Djaiz. To do this, a positive political project promoting the concept of civic friendship is essential.

“This political project must go beyond our particularisms and cannot be limited to the values of the republic,” he said. “We need a project that propels us and tells a new French story that remains largely to be invented.”

The importance of this “new narrative” is clearly spelled out in the findings of the Arab News en Francais/YouGov survey, which has uncovered a generational gap. A majority of young French people of Arab origin are much less enthusiastic about French institutions than their older counterparts.

According to the poll, younger people appear more keen on returning to the roots and origins of their parents and are less inclined to comply with French regulations.

Djaiz believes Muslim scholars and cultural leaders must play their part in undermining the more extreme interpretations of Islam and promoting openness. The views of French Muslims who condemn the protests and boycotts of French goods must also be promoted.

He is optimistic a new social contract can be established that will mend the worrisome rifts opening up in French society.

“We are now on the cusp of very great changes,” he said. “The challenge we are facing today is to establish a kind of new social contract in which every child of the republic will have a place so that no one is tempted by extremist and murderous ideologies.”