Indonesia: Religious Affairs Minister Resigns Over Corruption Charges

Indonesia Religious Affairs Minister Suryadharma Ali has stepped down from his post because of corruption allegations relating to his management of a US$ 5 billion state sponsored pilgrimage fund.

Last week, the Corruption Eradication Commission brought charges against Ali over the misuse of funds which, according to the Jakarta Globe, are meant to help Muslims make pilgrimages to Mecca, the holy land in Saudi Arabia.

The Kaaba at al-Haram Mosque during the start of Hajj (Photo Credit: Al Jazeera English)

The hajj fund in Indonesia is managed through a central government account, and is supported by government money and contributions from those who wish to make the pilgrimage. The travel deposit is about US$ 2,000 and the waiting list is from 12-17 years, reports the Jakarta Globe.

One of the accusations levied against Ali is that he expedited the hajj pilgrimage for about 100 family members and lawmakers. Indonesians typically have to wait years to make the trip because of a strictly enforced annual quota for pilgrims entering Mecca.

According to Channel News Asia, the corruption allegations have caused an outcry from the millions of Indonesian Muslims who have already paid into the fund.

Ali initially denied wrongdoing and refused to resign, attributing the allegations to a misunderstanding.

However, he resigned Monday after a meeting with the President of Indonesia, Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono.

State Secretary Sudi said that although Ali is deemed innocent until proven guilty, the President has advised him to prepare well for the upcoming legal case, says Antara News.

Channel News Asia reports that this is the second minister in the outgoing President’s cabinet to step down over corruption charges. The Sports Minister resigned in 2012 over corruption allegations.

Indonesia is the world’s most populous Muslim majority country.