Clerics issue fatwa against female president


JAKARTA: Several Indonesian Islamic clerics have issued an edict telling Muslims not to vote for a female presidential candidate, reports said yesterday. 

Incumbent Megawati Sukarnoputri is the only woman among five candidates for the July 5 poll, when Indonesians for the first time will directly elect their leader. 

The clerics, members in East Java province of Indonesia's largest Muslim organisation Nahdlatul Ulama (NU), met on Thursday to endorse the candidacy of former military chief Wiranto and his running mate Solahuddin Wahid, NU's deputy head. 

Megawati: Is the only woman among five presidential candidates.

“It was noted that the prohibition on women to assume positions of leadership was no longer a question still in dispute but already something that has been generally accepted among Muslim clerics,” one of them, Anwar Iskandar, told Antara news agency. 

Megawati's party won the 1999 parliamentary election. But Islamic parties in the legislature, which at the time chose presidents, blocked her bid for the leadership – partly on the grounds of her sex. 

Despite Thursday's fatwa (edict), analysts expect that the vote of NU's claimed 40 million supporters will be split. NU leader Hasyim Muzadi is running for vice-president alongside Megawati. 

Hasyim said he smelt politics in the fatwa because it was issued during the campaign period. 

“If (voters) don't like Mega, just vote for me. I'm a man,” Muzadi was quoted by Antara as saying, adding that a national congress of NU clerics did not forbid women from becoming president. – AFP  

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