Indonesian Muslim clerics consider fatwa against riding a motorbike without a helmet

By Irwan Firdaus, AP
Sunday, February 21, 2010

Indonesian clerics mull motorcycle helmet fatwa

JAKARTA, Indonesia — Indonesia’s leading clerics are considering a religious edict against riding a motorbike without a crash helmet to promote safety on the chaotic and deadly roads of the world’s most populous Muslim country.

Such a fatwa would not carry a penalty for those who ignore it, but advocates said Sunday making road safety a moral issue could be more effective than the law.

Helmets have been compulsory in Indonesia since 1988, but a 2005 government study found that up to 30 percent of riders in cities still did not wear one. Even fewer riders wear them in rural areas.

The Ulema Council, an influential board of Islamic clerics, will consider issuing the edict after consulting the Road Safety Association, motorbike riders, government regulators and medical professionals, council general secretary Ichwan Sam said.

“As Islamic people, we have to protect our religion, our body and soul, our mind, our ancestry and our wealth,” Sam said. “Wearing a helmet when riding a motorbike is included in the protection of our body and soul.”

According to the safety association, the equivalent of 23 of the 32 people who die each day in traffic accidents in Indonesia are motorbike riders. Upgrading of roads, particularly in cities such as Jakarta, is not keeping pace with the growth in motorbike ownership.

Edo Rusiyanto, a newspaper editor and association member, said it had recommended the fatwa in the hope that bikers in this nation of 235 million people who do not heed the safety pleas of lawmakers would listen to their religious leaders instead.

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