INDEPENDENT NEWS

Cablegate: Muslim Cleric's "Marriage" to Minor Sparks

Published: Tue 4 Nov 2008 10:47 AM
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DE RUEHJA #2038/01 3091047
ZNR UUUUU ZZH
P 041047Z NOV 08
FM AMEMBASSY JAKARTA
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC PRIORITY 0524
INFO RUEHZS/ASSOCIATION OF SOUTHEAST ASIAN NATIONS PRIORITY
RUCNISL/ISLAMIC COLLECTIVE
RUEHBJ/AMEMBASSY BEIJING 5567
RUEHLM/AMEMBASSY COLOMBO 1424
RUEHBY/AMEMBASSY CANBERRA 3237
RUEHKA/AMEMBASSY DHAKA 1398
RUEHPB/AMEMBASSY PORT MORESBY 4069
RUEHUL/AMEMBASSY SEOUL 5082
RUEHWL/AMEMBASSY WELLINGTON 3223
RUEHKO/AMEMBASSY TOKYO 2680
RUEHHK/AMCONSUL HONG KONG 3077
RUEHPT/AMCONSUL PERTH 1249
RUEAIIA/CIA WASHDC
RHEFDIA/DIA WASHINGTON DC
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UNCLAS SECTION 01 OF 02 JAKARTA 002038
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SENSITIVE
DEPT FOR EAP, EAP/MTS, EAP/MLS, DRL/AWH, G/TIP
NSC FOR E. PHU
E.O. 12958: N/A
TAGS: PGOV KISL PHUM ID
SUBJECT: MUSLIM CLERIC'S "MARRIAGE" TO MINOR SPARKS
CONTROVERSY
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1. (U) This message is Sensitive but Unclassified -- Please
handle accordingly.
2. (SBU) SUMMARY: A Muslim cleric is under investigation
for marrying a 12-year old girl last August. In reaction to
a public outcry by child welfare advocates, several
well-known Muslim leaders have denounced the cleric's action.
The unrepentant cleric appears to have, prima facie,
violated several child protection laws and could face prison
if charged and convicted. The shocking case will hopefully
raise public awareness re Indonesia's ongoing problem in
trafficking in young women and girls. END SUMMARY.
A SHOCKING CASE
3. (SBU) An unusual, shocking case has sparked an outcry in
Indonesia. Muslim cleric Pujianto Cahyo Widianto, also known
as "Syech Puji," faces possible charges of having illegal sex
with a minor and violating the 1974 marriage law for his
wedding to a 12-year old girl in Semarang, Central Java, in
August. The cleric, who claims he did nothing wrong, may
have violated up to six laws related to child protection,
marriage, health, labor and welfare. The investigation is
continuing.
4. (SBU) The unrepentant cleric, who runs an Islamic
boarding school, allegedly intends to marry up to seven
girls, two in the immediate future aged nine and seven. He
claims he is emulating Islamic Prophet Muhammad. Details of
the case have been daily fodder in the news media. According
to press reports, Puji's current wife staged a contest and
chose the 12-year old girl from among 20 "contestants." The
girl's parents have admitted that they agreed to the marriage
in order to alleviate financial difficulties. Although it
was not registered with the state, they also felt the
marriage was legal under religious law. The 1974 Indonesian
marriage law states that a woman must be 16 to marry legally.
SPARKING A STRONG REACTION
5. (SBU) Child protection groups quickly reacted to the
press reports. The Network for Women and Children in
Semarang, an NGO, said the marriage constituted exploitation
of a minor and urged the police to investigate the case.
Indonesia's independent Child Protection Commission (KPAI)
immediately sent a team to Semarang to investigate. Hadi
Supeno of KPAI told us he feared others would allow their
children to marry the cleric, as he has many followers, which
would ultimately victimize more children. Liberal
Indonesians have underscored that the investigation needs to
continue and that the GOI should charge the cleric, while
child protection agencies take care of the victim.
6. (SBU) Interestingly, after liberal Indonesians led the
initial charge, several Muslim leaders have subsequently
condemned the "marriage." The following Muslim
leaders--including key members of the important Indonesian
Council of Clerics (MUI)--made strong statements:
--MUI leader Umar Shihab said "Men should marry adults, there
are a lot of other prospective brides around. Why did he
marry a 12 year old..the poor girl?" he said.
--MUI Chair Amidhan Shaberah said, "A legal marriage is
carried out when the female is at least 16 years old and the
male at least 18, in accordance with the marriage law of
1974. This marriage is illegal, both according to Indonesian
and religious law," he said.
--Minister of Religious Affairs Maftuh Basyuni issued a
statement saying that the marriage violated Indonesian law
JAKARTA 00002038 002.2 OF 002
and urging law enforcement authorities to act quickly on the
case.
-- Member of Parliament Zulkieflimansyah from the
Islamic-oriented Prosperous Justice Party (PKS) condemned
Puji's action, telling us it was against the law and
inconsistent with Islamic values.
HIGHLIGHTING TRAFFICKING PROBLEM
7. (SBU) Muslim leaders have stepped to the plate and made
strong statements. We have urged a contact in the MUI to
urge that organization as a body to condemn the cleric's
action. Though the Puji case has its unique aspects to be
sure, hopefully it can bring further attention to Indonesia's
problem in trafficking in young women and girls. (Note: It
is not uncommon in Indonesia for men to marry young women in
order to get around trafficking in persons laws.
Additionally, foreign Muslim men sometimes come to Indonesia
and engage in contract marriages, paying up to USD 20,000 for
a short-term marriage to a young women, for example.)
HUME
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