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Judicial CP - August 2006

Corpun file 18079

New York Times, 1 August 2006

Indonesia Province Embraces Islamic Law

By Jane Perlez


BANDA ACEH, Indonesia — Across this most religious of Indonesia's provinces, brown uniformed policemen in black wagons enforce Shariah, or Islamic law. They haul unmarried couples into precincts and arrest people for drinking or gambling. Increasingly, many of the cases are pushed to the ultimate conclusion, public canings at mosques in front of pumped-up crowds.

Oki Tiba/Imaji, for The New York Times
A man caught drinking at a beachside stall was sentenced to 40 lashes. The caning was televised nationally, and he fainted on the seventh stroke.

Aceh is the most religious of Indonesia's 33 provinces.

Timur Angin/Imaji, for The New York Times

In mid-July, a 27-year-old man sentenced to 40 lashes fainted on the seventh stroke of a rattan cane from a hooded man in the yard of a mosque here in the provincial capital.

The caning was televised nationally, with an announcer reporting that the man, who had been arrested for drinking at a beachside stall, would receive the remainder of his punishment once he had recovered.

Battered by the Asian tsunami 19 months ago, Aceh is undergoing a profound transformation that is likely to have considerable impact on the nature of Islam in Indonesia, the most populous Muslim country.

For centuries Indonesia has been known for the open-minded, sometimes freewheeling, interpretation of its dominant religion. That is changing as moderate Muslims find themselves under siege from more orthodox proponents, and as the moderates are hesitant to push back.

Aceh, where Islam has always been more rigorously observed, is the first of Indonesia's 33 provinces to put Shariah law onto the books. Special Shariah courts established to mete out punishments have been operating for a year.

Now, some of Indonesia's other provincial governments are looking to Aceh as a model for how they might more formalize Shariah laws already on the books. More than a score of townships across Indonesia have introduced Shariah-like laws that fall short of the precision of the religious laws here.

The 1945 Indonesian Constitution is generally considered a secular document. But in a signal of the current mood in Indonesia, leading politicians have recently refrained from criticizing Aceh's new laws. Indeed, the laws were written in 2003, and had been made possible by the national government as a special gesture to the province, which for years suffered through separatist unrest.

In Aceh itself, though, the way the new laws are being enforced has aroused some opposition, especially among women. Often, they say, an arrest by overeager Shariah police officers, many of them men in their 20's and 30's, seems orchestrated as a punishment unto itself.


In a ruling that has enraged women's groups, an elementary school teacher, a married woman in her 30's, was sentenced on July 21 to caning for working in the headquarters of a political party on a Sunday afternoon at the same time as the party leader, who was not her husband.

“They were two people working in different rooms. How can she get punished?” asked Fatimahsyam, the head of the women's branch of the legal aid society in Lhoksemawe, Aceh's second biggest city.

It is not easy, the women's groups say, to question the Shariah laws for fear of being considered an unfaithful Muslim. The women's groups are careful not to criticize the existence of the laws themselves, but rather the method of enforcement.

Curiously, Mrs. Nursyamsiah, who was arrested here, is a civil servant assigned to the Shariah offices in Lhangsia, in southern Aceh. There she has watched the introduction of the new laws up close. A new force of 75 Shariah police officers — 70 men, 5 women — is being trained, she said.

The system of Shariah laws, she said, represents a form of politics as usual, a way of fattening the payroll.

“By applying Shariah law, the governor, the political elites, get more money for police, more courts,” she said. “We've opened a new section of government to look after Shariah.”

What also rankled her, she said, was the fact that the laws on drinking, gambling and relations between men and women tended to affect poor people the most. “Why,” she asked, “have they not introduced the Shariah laws on corruption? Stealing in Islam is a bigger sin than these small sins.”

At the municipal office of the Shariah police in Banda Aceh, Nasir Illyas, the director of administration, defended the style of punishment, proudly showing off the nearly three-foot-long rattan rod — with a curved handle for a better grip — that he keeps near his desk.

The rules are fair, he said as he itemized the following particulars from a manual: a minimum of about two and half feet between the person who canes and the defendant; the cane is applied from the left side; onlookers are at least 10 yards away.

Mr. Illyas, who sits under a portrait of the Indonesian president, Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono, said the Shariah laws were the “wish” of the people. The laws should be extended to non-Muslims, too, he said, a move that would place Aceh in the same ranks as Saudi Arabia.

Such a broad application, now under discussion among Aceh's officials, could have ramifications for the economic future here. Foreign aid workers, overseeing billions of dollars of international reconstruction aid, say they are finding the province less welcoming.


Corpun file 18319

Tempo, Jakarta, 15 August 2006

Citizens Caned

Although opposed by a number of factions, some districts implement Islamic Law.

LAST March, Ana, a married woman, received a love letter from Suharman. The residents of Padang, Bulukumba in South Sulawesi were concerned about the affair. The enraged husband brought the case to the village head. As a result, the village elders assembled to settle the matter. Suharman was sentenced to 40 strokes of the cane for violating Village Regulation No. 5/2006 on abhorrent behavior. The matter was settled without police involvement.

Two other villagers experienced a similar judgment. Nasir received five lashes for striking an elementary student and Arifin received five lashes for striking another villager in the face.

This penalty of flogging is part of the implementation of the regulation with Islamic Law nuances in Bulukumba subdistrict. Since 2002, the regional government has issued several regulations based on Islamic Law. For instance: Regional Regulation No. 3/2002 on the prohibition of selling alcoholic beverages, and Regional Regulation No. 2/2003 on the management of the charitable contributions Zakat, Infaq, and Sadaqah. Other regional regulations regulate Islamic attire and oblige students and bridegrooms to read the Qur'an.

Since 2003, 12 villages in Bulukumba regency were designated as model areas for regional regulation implementation. Padang village is one of the villages chosen as a model area. An 11-member committee of elders issues village regulations based on Islamic Law.

According to the village regulations, penalties are determined based on the severity of the crime. Adulterers receive 100 lashes. Gamblers, drunkards, and sellers of alcohol receive 40 lashes. Local security guards execute the punishment and the canes are made from split bamboo branches.

The Bulukumba flogging penalty is not written in the Criminal Code but the regulation has satisfied the village leaders. "The crime rate is decreasing significantly," said Rukman Jabbar, head of Padang village.

According to Andi M. Sukri Sappewali, Regent of Bulukumba, the village committee only passes judgment on minor cases that disturb public order. "The punishment is conducted in a secure room and attended only by the offender, the plaintiff, and the village leaders. The blows are not heavy," he said. The whole process is different from the openly public punishment performed in Aceh. Still, many people do not agree with the regulation. The regent has asked the head of Padang village to stop the flogging punishment and replace it with a less violent solution.

The implementation of Islamic Law always provokes controversy. When the Regional House of Representatives (DPRD) in Cianjur, West Java, ratified the draft of a regional regulation on the Movement of Community Moral Development on July 6, hundreds of people gathered outside the building. The crowds from 13 Islamic organizations enthusiastically demonstrated their support of the new regulation and begged the DPRD members to pay no attention to the opposing parties.

The opposing parties came from both secular and religious organizations. In their gathering at Sukolilo, East Java at the end of July, leaders of the biggest Islamic organization, Nahdlatul Ulama (NU), agreed to reject the legalization of Islamic Law in several regions.

"Why do we need Islamic Law? We have the Criminal Code," said Hasyim Muzadi, leader of NU. He said that since this nation consisted of people of different religions, a legal system which did not disturb the diversity should be applied.

Several regional government officials denied that their regulations were based on Islamic Law. "We do not issue Islamic Law, they are all civil regulations," said Wahidin Halim, the Tangerang City Mayor.

His region has issued two regional regulations: No. 7/2005 on alcoholic beverages, and No. 8/2005 on prostitution. Responding to Nahdlatul Ulama's remark he stated, "I am a NU member, but I have no comment yet. I have to discuss it first with the Tangerang NU."

The Tangerang residents strongly oppose the regulations. Last April, they demanded a judicial review at the Supreme Court (MA).

According to Hermawanto from the Jakarta Legal Aid Association, those regional regulations violate the essence of justice, especially on the principle of innocent until proven guilty. For example, Regional Regulation No. 8/2005 states that anyone can be arrested on suspicion of a crime. Since the regulation was enacted, 30 people have been arrested on false accusations.

Female workers in Tangerang have suffered a great deal because of the regulation. They cannot work their night shifts since they could be accused of working as prostitutes and be arrested on their way home. "The regulation limits our working hours and reduces our income," said Lilis Mahmuda, one of the citizens who demanded the judicial review.

Ismet Iskandar, Tangerang's regent, must think twice before he can decide to implement the regulation in his district. "I think it will be difficult to enforce the regulation in Tangerang," he said. Tangerang regency is a 24-hour industrial area.

The draft regional regulation on alcoholic beverages and prostitution in Depok, West Java, has also provoked controversy. However, the draft will be examined by the DPRD in spite of the objections. "A lot of people insist on having the regulation ratified," explained Kuat Sukardiono, a member of the DPRD.

According to him, the two draft regulations have no connection with Islamic Law. Sanctions for legal offenders still refer to the basic Constitution. "We will not give sanctions to those who violate the Constitution," he said.

A handful of regulations based on Islamic Law issued in other regions such as Padang (West Sumatra) and Pandeglang (West Java) have raised the same polemic. Two months ago, Minister of Home Affairs, M. Ma'ruf, declared that he would examine those regional regulations based on Islamic Law and evaluate their validity based on the national consensus as stated in the Pancasila and 1945 Constitution. "We will omit the invalid regulations-with a certain procedure, of course," said Ma'ruf.

Nothing yet has come from this promised evaluation. Andreas Rarwanto, spokesperson from the Home Affairs Department said that the evaluation was still in progress. "We are still collecting the materials," he said.

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