Ask the Rabbi - Customs and Practices

A Noahide in Indonesia

Q: Can an Indonesian student who wants to become a Noahide continue to be registered as a Muslim? How can he practice his religion?

Q: I am in contact with an Indonesian student with a big problem. He grew up as a Muslim. His family is still Muslim (it seems to me in a very lenient and relaxed way). He became a Christian and changed his denomination once, and at present he is a Roman Catholic. Now he wants to become a Noahide.
BUT in Indonesia you MUST be registered with one of the following religions: Christian, Muslim, Buddha, Hindu (no Jews there). In Indonesia, Islam is very anti-Semitic and anti-Zionist. Jews and Judaism are evil in their eyes. But most Muslims there do not practice Islam. The Protestants pray and sing to Jesus, so he does not want to be part of them. As far as the Roman Catholics are concerned, his pastor is open minded and not dogmatic.
Before she died two months ago, his mother asked him to rerturn to Islam. His father is dead. He is single and studies philosophy at a Catholic university. 
Can you give me any advice?
My responses until now were:
1. you grew up as Muslim. Your family tradition is very important, particularly when you do not break any Noahide law. Registration is paper work. Being registered as a Muslim don’t mean you really agree with them. You can continue as you are, not practicing the religion in a serious way.
The only time you need to be part of a defined community in Indonesia, from one of the registered religions is with a case of marriage and burial. It seems to be forbidden to change religion to become a Noahide when the original is not against the Noahide rules.
Is this true, and what is a source for such a response?

A: You are right. The source is the question that Naaman asked Elisha:  If he is allowed to worship the god Rimon when he goes to the temple of Rimon with the Syrian king. Elisha’s answer was that he was allowed to do so. That is, according to the halacha the other nations do not have a mitzva of Kiddush Hashem, sanctifying the name of G-d.

2. I said to him that he is in fact a prisoner, forced to be in a religion he doesn’t want, and that he cannot be held responsible for the situation. Is there any source for this? What is it?

A: As I answered above.
3. I told him that he can read the Torah, even if the Muslims tell him that it has been falsified by Jews and Christians. He is not forced to practice any religion, only to be registered. As a Muslim he has an eternal grave. Muslims really believe in ONE god. They have also good practices: praying, washing hands and feet before praying, some kind of dietary laws, some kind of purity laws in the family. That seems to me very positive.

So, is my advice to him to return to Islam on paper best for him ?

A: Yes.

4. If he wants to pray at home, can he face in the direction of Mecca?

A: in Indonesia the directions of Mecca and Jerusalem are the same.
3. Are there any liturgical problems in Muslim services? What about during burials or marriages? For example, can he say ‘Mohammed is his prophet’ (I don’t know the exact formulation in Islam)?

A: This presents no problem.

Rabbi Oury Cherki

Rav Oury Cherki was born in Algeria in 1959 and grew up in France, and he made Aliyah in 1972. He studied at Merkaz Harav Yeshiva, which was founded by Rav Avraham Yitzchak Kook. He performed his military service in the artillery branch of the IDF. He studied with Rav Tzvi Yehuda Kook, Rav Yehuda Leon Ashkenazi (Manitou), Rav Shlomo Binyamin and Achlag. Rav Cherki heads the Israeli department of Machon Meir, and he is the Director of Brit Olam - the Noahide World Center. He teaches in many places throughout Israel. Rav Cherki is the spiritual leader of the "Beth Yehuda" community in Kiryat Moshe (Jerusalem). He has written many books on Jewish thought and philosophy.

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