Saturday, February 15, 2014

Jakarta Post reports on Aceh's enforcement of Sharia

A colleague working in Southeast Asia assures me that the newest attempt by the government to enforce Sharia law will be pushed down when the Ministry of Home Affairs refuses to approve the mandate. It still  saddens me on so many levels.  All the things that need to still be done for the province are going to be derailed by a global audience who is mostly scratching its head and wondering why it should contribute any more resources to a region determined to shoot itself in the foot at every opportunity. 

Below are excerpts only.

Without much fanfare, the Aceh provincial administration and legislative council have approved the Qanun Jinayat (behavior-governing bylaw) that obliges every Muslim and non-Muslim in Aceh to follow sharia, the Islamic legal code.
The Qanun Jinayat was approved by the legislative council on Dec. 13 and signed by Governor Zaini Abdullah.

Saleh said that the newly approved qanun stipulated that all violators of sharia would be tried under Islamic law regardless of their religion.
Violations . . . include drinking liquor, khalwat (affectionate contact between an unmarried couple), and not wearing headscarf or wearing tight pants by women.
Anyone found drinking alcohol or breaching the codes on moral behavior, whether residents or visitors to Aceh, could face between six and nine lashes of the cane.
On Wednesday, the Aceh sharia police stopped motorists but let non-Muslim women go after advising them to wear a headscarf. Three violations of the dress code could lead to nine lashes.
Saleh argued that the passing of the qanun was based on the principle of justice for all as Muslims would feel they were being treated unfairly if non-Muslim violators were not tried under the same law for the same violations.
Legal observer and social scientist at Syiah Kuala University in Banda Aceh, Saifuddin Bantasyam, said that although he had not yet read the Qanun Jinayat in detail, he thought that it would be awkward if Islamic law was applied to non-Muslims regardless of whether the violation was categorized as a sharia violation.

Key articles in the Qanun Jinayat
1. The sharia authorities will have the power to arrest suspected violators, and confiscate and conduct raids on their property, based on preliminary evidence.
2. The authorities will have the power to detain a violator for up to 30 days prior to trial. This detention can be extended by another 30 days.
3. A suspect has the right to be defended by a lawyer.
4. Non-Muslim or military suspects will be tried in a sharia court unless the violation is covered by the Criminal Code (KUHP) or by the Military Code respectively.
5. Even if the sharia court acquits a defendant, he or she will be required to undergo rehabilitation.
6. Only one appeal may be filed with the sharia court.
7. Prison terms are for up to a maximum of 40 months.
8. Caning up to a maximum to 40 lashes.
9. Fines up to a maximum of 800 grams of gold.

Source: Aceh provincial administration

My colleague adds, “I think that we need to work on a strategy for the 10th anniversary of the tsunami this year and of the MoU next year. These are opportunities for bringing back interest and attention to Aceh. And to get the Acehnese to understand that if they want to keep that attention then they have to lose the ridiculous parochialism they are falling into.”

As I was pondering whether I could even return to Aceh under these condition, I remembered philosopher Bertrand Russell’s Portraits from Memory  in which there is a section called "Why I am Not a Communist."

As you read these excerpts, substitute “political Islam” for Communism, and your favorite Acehnese politician for Stalin and Marx.

In relation to any political doctrine there are two questions to be asked:

(1) Are its theoretical tenets true?

(2) Is its practical policy likely to increase human happiness?

For my part, I think the theoretical tenets of Communism are false, and I think its practical maxims are such as to produce an immeasurable increase of human misery.

 . . . I am completely at a loss to understand how it came about that some people who are both humane and intelligent could find something to admire in the vast slave camp produced by Stalin.

 . . . But my objections to modern Communism go deeper than my objections to Marx. It is the abandonment of democracy that I find particularly disastrous. A minority resting its powers upon the activities of secret police is bound to be cruel, oppressive and obscuarantist. The dangers of the irresponsible power came to be generally recognized during the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, but those who have forgotten all that was painfully learnt during the days of absolute monarchy have gone back to what was worst in the middle ages under the curious delusion that they were in the vanguard of progress.

. . . In most of the countries of Asia, there is abject poverty which the West ought to alleviate as far as it lies in its power to do so. There is also a great bitterness which was caused by the centuries of European insolent domination in Asia. This ought to be dealt with by a combination of patient tact with dramatic announcements renouncing such relics of white domination as survive in Asia. . . . “

The basic claim of political Islam—that there exists a commonly agreed corpus of Islam that is universally accepted-- is false, and can be clearly seen in Indonesia with its plurality of faiths and competing orthodoxies. The body of Islamic law can’t provide relevance and answers to the problems of modern governance, especially in Aceh province. Is this law liable to increase human happiness?  The policies derived from these ideas are at best problematic.  And the nonchalant refusal to even consider the dangers of absolute power and its abuse is incredibly frightening.
The 18th century Indian Islamic Scholar Sha Wali’s theory of the Caliphate addresses the problem of the abuse of power by deeming it away by administrative fiat—“we will choose a just caliph,” or “the jurist’s council is by definition just because he knows the law.”  The whole idea of human frailties and power concentrated in the hands of the few being dangerous is simply deemed away.  This seems terribly naïve and short-sighted, particularly in light of the very long history of unjust secular rulers against which the whole Islamist ideology is aimed.
And then there are those citizens of Aceh who, as Russell notes, have apparently forgotten “all that was too painfully learned” under the various tyrannies of both colonial powers and, more recently, Indonesia itself.
As with Communism, Islam does not offer a solution to the constant presence of the potential for the abuse of power. And this refusal to learn from the past is happening under the delusion that Aceh is “searching for cultural authenticity.”  This is surprising, and certainly not convincing.  We know what those who have promulgate this law are searching for: votes based on fear and personal wealth based on repression.  Nothing really moral, or Muslim, about that.

Some comments appearing below the Jakarta Post article:

·       Title is MISLEADING. Aceh cannot enforce sharia in full. The Ministry of Home Affairs has 60 days to check whether regulations are in line with the constitution.

·       the Qur'an was man made, there was no Qur'an during the life time of Muhammad, read the Bukhari hadith, it was codified or made into a book by caliph Uthman who was not a prophet

·       there is no original Qur'an, even the one codified by Uthman in existence in the world, so don't say that the current Qur'an has never been changed

·       Its very regret that Aceh turned to Taliban, Boko Haram likeness ruling province. I believe that in the next time Aceh will be base of terrorist.

·       Is this PTSD from the Tsunami? Or are the people by nature, insane? 

·       women being fined for not wearing the hijab or wearing tight jeans is absurd. . .

·       Treating women equally is a sign of civility. Mentally they are as intelligent so why subjugate them? The clothes they wear, how they ride scooters etc. is irrelevant. The clowns on dresses aren't trying to respect women, they are controlling them. Let one women live in Aceh and Saudi and then Australia, Europe or the US and then ask where she prefers.

·       men and women may not be equal, but neither is superior, men and women complement each other, to say otherwise is just idiotic. Sharia seems to be more about control does it not, PS I am male and my wife (indo) is smarter than me.

No type of fundamentalism is good.  I hope Aceh wakes up in time. 

[thanks to Dr Efraim Afsah of the University of Copenhagen for an enlightening lecture on the topic of political Islam.]

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