Sharia laws to be applied to Non-Muslims in Aceh, Indonesia

March 1, 2014 by  
Filed under newsletter-asia

Indonesia, February 25, 2014: Sharia laws will be extended to non-Muslims in the Indonesian province of Aceh under a controversial new bylaw.

The Grand Mosque in Banda Aceh, the provincial capital of Aceh

The Grand Mosque in Banda Aceh, the provincial capital of Aceh

Elements of sharia are already in force in the territory but are applied only to Muslims. On 13 December, a new behaviour-governing bylaw (Qanun Jinayat) was approved by Aceh’s legislative council and signed by Governor Zaini Abdullah.

Councillor Abdulah Saleh said:

The qanun does indeed oblige everyone in Aceh to follow sharia without exception.

It would be unfair if Muslims were punished while non-Muslims were not, just because sharia violations are not stipulated in the Criminal Code.

The bylaw was submitted to the Home Ministry on 2 February; the central government department needs to verify the qanun before it can be enacted, and this process can take up to 60 days.

But sharia police have already started reprimanding non-Muslim “offenders”. Women were told to wear a headscarf and men who were dressed in shorts told to wear trousers. Three-time violators of the dress rules could be publicly caned.

Other sharia laws that are in force in Aceh include the prohibition of alcohol and affectionate contact between unmarried couples.

As well as being extended to non-Muslims, the rules will also be applied to visitors to the province. Under the new Qanun Jinayat, the Islamic police will have the power to detain suspects and confiscate and raid their property.

Non-Muslims violators of Aceh’s Criminal Code will be given the option of being tried by a sharia court or a regular court. But if the matter in question is not covered by the Criminal Code, they will automatically be tried in a sharia court. Even if acquitted by a sharia court, the defendant will be required to undergo “rehabilitation”.

The new Qanun Jinayat has been denounced by the secretary general of the Aceh Clerics Association, Faisal Ali, who said that it was a political ploy ahead of this year’s elections. He said that it reflected a poor understanding of both religion and the law:

It is impossible for Islamic law to regulate the lives of non-Muslims, since they do not adhere to Islam.

The introduction of sharia in Aceh was authorised in 2001 as part of a “special autonomy” deal aimed at ending a lengthy separatist war. Provincial legislators have since passed four sharia-based criminal bylaws. Islamic police based on Iran’s “vice and virtue” patrols enforce the rules. As religious conservatives become more powerful, sharia is being imposed more strictly, to the detriment of women and religious minorities in particular.

The head of legal affairs at the Aceh provincial secretariat said that the administration would seek to implement a more comprehensive sharia-based criminal code in the future.

– barnabas team

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