Affan leads a government team of some 1,000 mosque hunters who have spent years visiting every corner of the 5,000 kilometer (3,100 mile) long archipelago to answer one question: how many mosques are there in the world’s biggest Muslim majority nation?
“Only God knows exactly how many mosques there are in Indonesia,” former vice president Jusuf Kalla quipped recently.
“Some say around one million and people will take it for granted.”
So far, Affan’s team has registered 554,152 mosques and the census — which kicked off in 2013 — is only about 75 percent done, Affan says.
Earlier government estimates pegged the total at more than 740,000 nationwide.
Nearly 90 percent of Indonesia’s 260 million people are Muslim and it is home to Jakarta’s Istiqlal mosque, Southeast Asia’s biggest with room for 200,000 worshipers.
So it’s an Herculean task for Affan and his team at the religious affairs ministry as it scours a country of some 17,000 islands, where new mosques are going up all the time.