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Rhoma Irama and the fake Professor title JAKARTA - “Professor of Dangdut” Rhoma Irama may have to revert back to the less scholarly “King of Dangdut” in the not-too-distant future after Indonesia’s education minister indicated that the presidential candidate may be liable to criminal penalties if his illustrious certificate of education turned out to have been acquired from a scam college run by a colorful UK-Iranian educator.

“There are sanctions, please read it in the National Education System Law,” Nuh said on Thursday, adding that Rhoma could be liable to up to five years in prison and a Rp 500 million ($40,000) fine.

Rhoma has been nominated by the Islamic National Awakening Party (PKB) as its presidential candidate. Party chairman Muhaimin Iskandar said the party would promote Rhoma as its only candidate.

The controversy began after a banner was found on Jalan Tanjung Barat Raya, South Jakarta, that read “Our President Prof. Rhoma Irama.” Rhoma did not attend college but claims to have been awarded a doctoris honoris causa for dangdut music by an American university in 2005.

Some of the PKB candidate’s more sardonic opponents took to social media to express the view that it was pretentious at best and dishonest at worst to use an honorary degree title to give one’s campaign a scholarly shot in the arm. “There should be an assessment of whether he deserved to receive the professor degree or not,” Nuh said. “I, myself, should sign [the certificate] if it is in Indonesia.”

A cursory investigation into the institution that awarded Rhoma his degree indicates that the PKB presidential candidate received a degree from an institution that has been shut down by US authorities, and that a presidential candidate undertaking even a modicum of due diligence should have dissociated themselves as far as possible from the institute.

The American University of Hawaii was disbanded by a Hawaii court in 2005 and its founder, Hassan H. Safavi, who also goes by Henry, ordered to stop recruiting students and pay a fine of $500,000. The unaccredited institution was shut down following an injunction by the Hawaii Office of Consumer Protection, but the school’s alleged “head office” in Mississippi remained open.

The university complied with the permanent injunction, rebranding itself as the American University for Humanities, and setting up shop in Armenia, Georgia, Lebanon and Singapore. It now offers, according to its earnest-sounding website, “academic excellence in a humanitarian environment, and imparting quality American higher education based on its traditional renowned liberal education, but in an innovative manner that is commensurate with the demands and requirements of the global process of change.”

Checking the copy on its own website for grammar does not, however, appear to be on the priority list of the American University for Humanities, but Safavi has other priorities now, including popping up on Iranian state TV with a glib analysis of money laundering in Georgia. Calls to the American University of Humanities went unanswered.

Rhoma Irama told the Jakarta Globe that his relationship with the university began after he was approached by the management of the Taman Mini tourist attraction about receiving an honorary degree.

It is common practice for universities to boost their marketing and networking currency by awarding honorary degrees to people in the public eye. “For your information, Rhoma’s songs were studied in hundreds of universities in America,” Rhoma said. “So in January 2005, they gave me the degree.”

The Jakarta Globe asked Rhoma if he had purchased or applied for the degree. “No, I was given it,” he said. Rhoma was asked if he could provide a certificate or paperwork proving that the university had approached him with the honorary degree and that neither he nor someone on his behalf had approached the American University of Hawaii.

Rhoma was able only to say that the certificate was “somewhere in my house.” He denied ever having heard the name Henry or Hassan Safavi. The West Java-born singer and actor emphasizes that the banners in question were created by supporters and were not official campaign materials. He maintains that he did not choose to use the title of “Professor” on the banners.

“It was made by the supporters,” Rhoma said. “You can see the official banners in Dewi Sartika and Warung Buncit. You can see there that they did not use my professor degree.” Rhoma has successfully parlayed his celebrity into politics, but this is not the first time that he has strummed his way into political controversy.

During the Jakarta governorship elections in 2012, Rhoma was brought up in front of the city’s elections committee after he gave a speech in support of incumbent Fauzi Bowo calling on the electorate not to vote for a “kafir,” or infidel, widely perceived to be one of the many slurs attacking the Chinese ethnicity and Christianity of deputy gubernatorial candidate Basuki Tjahaja Purnama.

The PKB presidential hopeful has tried to shrug off the scandal this time around. “It’s more fun [being] only Rhoma Irama,” Rhoma said, “without a degree.” “If people want to use the title, it’s their right,” Rhoma said. “When I was granted the degree, there was news about it in some media. So people know of Rhoma as a music professor. In public events they often use the title as my complete name: Professor Rhoma Irama.”

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Related blog entries (category 'Politics') Tags: Rhoma Irama, fake, professor, title, controversy

Posted in Politics @ 03 March 2014 03:34 CET by Jeroen · 'Blog' RSS feed · permalink

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