Man called 'God' told to change name

JAKARTA • He is a carpenter named God, but that has not spared him the wrath of Indonesia's top Islamic authority.

The Indonesian Council of Ulema (MUI) is insisting that 42-year-old Mr Tuhan, whose name is the Bahasa Indonesia word for God, change his name because his use of the word is "blasphemous" and "unethical", reported the Jakarta Globe.

Mr Tuhan has become an Internet sensation in Indonesia after a Facebook post showing a picture of his state-issued identity card cheekily titled "God is from Banyuwangi" went viral last week.

But Islamic authorities are not amused, insisting that the issue is no laughing matter. They have demanded that the carpenter legally change his name.

"He can add an Abdu in front of his name so that it means 'servant of God'," Mr Abdushomad Bukhori, head of the MUI's East Java chapter told Indonesian news outlet Tempo. Mr Abdushomad had also requested the Civil Registry Office to annul Mr Tuhan's identity card to prevent him from gaining access to public services unless he changes his name, reported Kyodo News.

However, Mr Tuhan, a Muslim, said he was not considering changing his name, pointing out that he had never encountered anyone taking offence at his name. He added that he did not know why his parents chose his name.

According to the Globe, many have spoken out in support of Mr Tuhan. "The MUI should be grateful," Dr Ulil Abshar Abdalla, a prominent Muslim scholar and vocal critic of the MUI, tweeted. "This is proof that Tuhan really exists."

The MUI is Indonesia's top Islamic clerical body but it has no legal power to enforce its demands, which are seen more as guidelines and suggestions than actual orders. In February, it threatened to issue a fatwa against the sale of condoms following reports that the contraceptives were being sold along with chocolate to mark Valentine's Day.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on August 26, 2015, with the headline 'Man called 'God' told to change name'. Print Edition | Subscribe