Doctored news report shares 'hoax' Indonesia minister comments on reallocating hajj funds

  • Published on June 14, 2024 at 11:03
  • 3 min read
  • By AFP Indonesia
The office of Indonesia's Religious Affairs Minister Yaqut Cholil Qoumas rubbished "hoax" Facebook posts claiming he suggested the government reallocate funds for the Islamic hajj pilgrimage to finance the construction of the country's new capital. The posts shared a doctored news article that originally reported on Yaqut coming under fire over his Eid message in 2022 -- not comments on hajj funds. 

"The government are like thugs. Their job is extorting people's money over and over again," read an Indonesian-language Facebook post from May 30.

The post appeared to show a news report with a photo of Yaqut alongside the headline: "Religious affairs minister asked public to allow government to use hajj fund for new capital".

Indonesia's government manages funds from its Muslim population for the Islamic hajj pilgrimage to the holy city of Mecca through an independent body called the Hajj Fund Management Agency (BPKH) (archived links here and here).

The BPKH managed more than US$10 billion as of December 2023 (archived link).

Screenshot of the false post, taken on June 12, 2024

The capital of Southeast Asia's biggest economy will formally move in August from traffic-clogged and sinking Jakarta to the planned city of Nusantara.

The legacy project by outgoing Indonesian President Joko Widodo has been hampered by a lack of foreign investment, land ownership issues and delays.

The doctored news report made the rounds on Facebook here, here, here and here, prompting a flurry of criticism of Yaqut.

"In order to go on hajj, people save up. How can the money suddenly be used to build the new capital?" one Facebook user commented.

Another called Yaqut's purported comments "heartless".

However, the religious affairs ministry's West Sumatra office posted on June 4 that the claim was a "hoax" (archived link).

"Since 2018, the Religious Affairs Ministry has no longer become the party responsible for managing the hajj fund as it has become the BPKH's authority," it added.

The ministry refuted a similar rumour back in 2022 (archived link).

AFP found no reports that Yaqut made the alleged remarks, as of June 14, 2024.

Doctored headline

Moreover, the news article screenshot shared in Facebook posts is manipulated.

The reporter's name is given as "Tim PRMN 02" and the publication date as May 5, 2022.

Keywords searches found the original report published by Indonesian newspaper Pikiran Rakyat, which features the same photo, byline and publication date (archived link).

However, the original headline read: "Religious Affairs Minister Yaqut Cholil Qoumas asked to step down from role following Eid message".

Yaqut came under fire for referring to the youth wing of a Muslim organisation in his 2022 Eid message, which critics presented as evidence he was acting in the interest of the group rather than ordinary Indonesians (archived link).

Below is a screenshot comparison between the doctored article (left) and Pikiran Rakyat's original report (right):

Comparison between doctored article (left) and Pikiran Rakyat's original report (right)

Yaqut posted the photo of himself seen in the article on Instagram on October 27, 2021 and said it showed him speaking at university event (archived link). 

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