MAMUJU (INDONESIA) – As Friday prayers wrap up at Suada mosque, worshippers flip their consideration outdoors the place Fakhry Affan steers a drone excessive above, snapping photos of the constructing tucked in a nook of Indonesia’s Sulawesi island.
Affan leads a authorities group of some 1,000 mosque hunters who’ve spent years visiting each nook of the 5,000 kilometre (three,100 mile) lengthy archipelago to reply one query: what number of mosques are there on the planet’s largest Muslim majority nation?
“Solely God is aware of precisely what number of mosques there are in Indonesia,” former vice chairman Jusuf Kalla quipped lately.
“Some say round a million and other people will take it without any consideration.”
To date, Affan’s group has registered 554,152 mosques and the census — which kicked off in 2013 — is just about 75 p.c finished, Affan says.
Earlier authorities estimates pegged the overall at greater than 740,000 nationwide.
Almost 90 p.c of Indonesia’s 260 million persons are Muslim and it’s house to Jakarta’s Istiqlal mosque, Southeast Asia’s largest with room for 200,000 worshippers.
So it is an Herculean process for Affan and his group on the spiritual affairs ministry because it scours a rustic of some 17,000 islands, the place new mosques are going up on a regular basis.
– Monitoring radicalism –
After getting key details about Mamuju metropolis’s three,000 capability Suada mosque — together with constructing allow and mosque committee particulars — Affan uploads his drone photos to a bulging on-line database.
“We did it manually prior to now, however now we’re going digital,” he informed AFP.
The federal government can also be planning to launch an Android-based app referred to as Data Masjid (Mosque Data) so Muslims can use their smartphone to search out the closest place of worship.
Nur Salim Ismal, who attends the Suada mosque, hopes the transfer on-line will deliver better transparency.
“Mosques handle big quantities of cash from worshippers and it ought to be clear the way it’s getting used,” he mentioned.
However the mosque hunt is not only a counting train — it is also a method to keep watch over radicalism.
“Radical ideology can mushroom anyplace and mosques are one of many best locations for it to unfold,” Affan mentioned.
“Why? Since you don’t want to ask folks to the mosque, they will come anyway.
“We wish to be sure that all imams and (mosque) committees are average as a result of Islam in Indonesia is average,” he added.
Indonesia’s long-held fame for tolerant pluralism has been examined in recent times.
Muslim hardliners have gotten more and more vocal in public and the nation is house to dozens of extremist teams loyal to Islamic State group’s violent ideology.
– ‘Infinite job’ –
In 2018, Indonesia’s intelligence company mentioned it had discovered dozens of mosques that catered to authorities staff spreading radicalism and calling for violence towards non-Muslims — in a single Jakarta neighbourhood alone.
The alarming figures got here a number of months after Indonesia’s second-biggest metropolis Surabaya was rocked by a wave of suicide bombings carried out by households at church buildings throughout Sunday providers, killing a dozen folks.
Members of an IS-loyal group tried to assassinate Indonesia’s chief safety minister final yr, whereas in November a militant suicide bomber killed himself and injured six others throughout an assault at a police station.
Indonesia’s new vice-president Ma’ruf Amin, a cleric-turned-politician, has mentioned the federal government would begin certifying preachers and mosque congregations nationwide to stamp out militants of their ranks.
“There’s potential for mosques to be vulnerable to radicalism if they don’t seem to be monitored,” mentioned Ali Munhanif, an professional on political Islam at Syarif Hidayatullah State Islamic College Jakarta
“The federal government has a duty to maintain its eye on all mosques in Indonesia.”
Within the tally thus far, the group has counted 258,958 giant mosques and one other 295,194 smaller ones, which match 40 folks or fewer.
Affan and his group hope to complete the preliminary spherical of counting this yr.
“However that is an countless job and it will by no means be completed,” he mentioned.
“It is fairly uncommon for a mosque to shut down, however one factor is for certain: the variety of new ones will hold going up.”