Following outcry from locals, Bali Sharia Economic Society (MES) chairman Dadang Hermawan has apologized for proposing Sharia tourism be promoted on the Islands of the Gods.
“We apologize to the people of Bali if we have caused any offense and we hope that it won’t lead to any further controversy,” he said as quoted by Antara news agency.
Dadang met with several officials including members of Sulinggih (Hindu high priests), Regional Representatives Council (DPD) members and representatives from the tourist industry at the Financial Services Authority (OJK) office on Thursday.
He also said that the MES would also support the development of Bali’s tourism by exploring the current potential of the famed island.
The idea came after Dadang was officiated as Bali MES chairman by central MES head Muliaman D. Hadad on Nov. 16. Muliaman, who is also OJK chairman, agreed with Dadang’s proposal of exploring Sharia tourism in Bali as a business opportunity considering the huge numbers of tourists traveling there.
It was not a matter of religion, but economy, Muliaman earlier said.
The idea was strongly rejected by locals, including Bali Governor Made Mangku Pastika, arguing that sharia-themed tourism did not fit in with Bali’s local culture. The idea, they said, could also potentially cause disharmony in the Hindu-majority province.
The Tourism Ministry has listed 13 provinces as potential Sharia tourism destinations: West Nusa Tenggara (NTB), Nangroe Aceh Darussalam, West Sumatra, Riau, Lampung, Banten, Jakarta, West Java, Central Java, Yogyakarta, East Java, South Sulawesi and Bali.
Still, there is a wide misconception the Sharia tourism is promoted by the Ministry.
According to the ministry’s official website, Sharia tourism does not mean religious tourist attractions or a type of pilgrimage; it means offering comfort for Muslim travelers by providing appropriate facilities for prayers and access to halal food.
“I thought Sharia tourism was a type of Wali Songo [nine holy preachers] pilgrimage”, Dewi Isroyati, a frequent traveler, told Antara news agency.
Several travel bloggers, however, agreed with the business opportunity that Sharia tourism could offer.
Asoka Remadja Sungkharism from asokaremadja.com and Rijal Fahmi Mohamadi from catperku.com both said that Sharia tourism could be beneficial for Muslim travelers to find hotels with signage for qibla [direction of Mecca], for example, and restaurants with certified halal food.
They also urged for improved promotions and a clear explanation of what Sharia tourism meant. (liz/rin)(+)