Yudhoyono considering move amid rising public anger over issue
By Devi Asmarani,
The Straits Times, December 7
The plan is to expand an existing restriction on polygamy for civil servants so that it will cover office holders, political appointees, legislators, soldiers and police, a minister said.
'The President has a great concern for women and he wants the public to be at peace over this issue,' State Minister for Women's Empowerment Meutia Hatta told reporters.
She added that the government would revise a 1990 government regulation that requires all civil servants to have the approval of their wives and bosses before taking a second wife.
The latest development comes on the heels of a confession by tele-evangelist Abdullah Gymnastiar, 44, that he has taken a second wife.
His new bride, Ms Alfarini Eridani, 37, is a former model and a single mother of three. She works for the cleric's business group in
He has seven children with his first wife, Ms Nini Muthmaninah, who often flanks her husband on TV and at his other speaking engagements. She has said that she agreed to his second marriage.
Teh Nini, as his first wife is known, said she has 'thought about it for five years and now it has happened'.
She also said that everything was fine with her, despite having to share the house with another wife.
'It was hard for me in the beginning,' she said in a radio broadcast yesterday. 'I kept praying to God... and later found that (my husband) had no intention to hurt my feelings.'
Known affectionately as Aa (or brother) Gym, the cleric rose to fame with his simple homilies on family love. He also occasionally kisses his wife on stage.
But his polygamous marriage has angered many Indonesian women, who make up his biggest following.
The Jakarta Post reported that the crowd at his weekly weekend congregation in
And during his broadcast talk shows, outraged listeners have expressed their disappointment. 'You have sold out your religion,' said one.
Cabinet Secretary Sudi Silalahi said the President and First Lady Kristiani's cellphones had been buzzing with messages condemning Mr Gymnastiar's polygamous marriage.
'All this uproar is because Aa Gym made thousands of people believe he was more sensible than other types who take two wives or more with little fuss,' the Jakarta Post said in its editorial yesterday.
The turbaned cleric has apologised for having hurt his followers. But he maintained that polygamy is allowed in Islam because men are by nature more inclined to do it.
'Women tend to be monogamous, that's how their 'software' is...But men, you know...their software is different,' he said.
Indeed, he said, polygamy is better than extramarital sex. But he added: 'What I did should not justify other men to do the same - I do not recommend it.'
Mr Gymnastiar, who is also a successful entrepreneur, is one of several prominent figures, including top politicians, whose polygamous marriages were recently revealed.
Polygamy is not widely accepted in
Since then, other men have also revealed their own polygamous marriages. The latest to do so are legislators AM Fatwa, 67, and Anis Matta, 38.
Islamic teaching allows men to have as many as four wives, provided they are all treated equally.
But moderate and progressive Muslims have said that since it is impossible to be fully fair to all the wives, polygamy should not be practised.
Ms Musdah Mulia, who wrote the book Islam Against Polygamy, said the Quran has been misinterpreted by men for generations.
'Polygamy was a deeply rooted practice in
'He did something radical to phase it out by limiting the number of wives they can have to four - and even the four wives he had towards the end of his life was a way to unite the surrounding tribes,' she said.
But he must also prove that his first wife is unable to bear a child or is disabled, or cannot fulfil her duty as a wife.