Posted by: DS | February 1, 2010

Activists: Shariah Targets ‘Common People’ Only

Banda Aceh — Two human rights activists said on Sunday that the implementation of Shariah law in Aceh was unfair and discriminatory, as it only applied to the common people, while government officials and wealthy people were never sentenced to public lashings.

The comments follow the public caning of a farmer, Syahrul, 40, in Jantho, Aceh Besar, on Friday, after being found guilty of gambling.

Three of Syahrul’s more daring associates managed to escape from the Jantho Prosecution Office prison 15 minutes before execution of the sentence.

“This gave the impression that implementation of Shariah in Aceh is a laughable game. Especially as only the common people are sentenced to lashing,” said TAF Haikal, a civil rights activist.

“As an Acehnese, I will be ashamed if this situation continues, because Islamic Shariah is great, noble and universal. But in Aceh, it has been reduced to unethical misconduct,” he said.

Haikal, a former general secretary of the Aceh NGO Forum, said the perception of injustice comes from the fact that only the common people had been publicly lashed, while convicted officials had not.

“We know of officials that have been arrested for khalwat [unchaperoned romantic or sexual tryst between an unmarried couple], but none of them were caned,” he said.

“Even more curious, a Shariah policeman was arrested by the public for khalwat last year, but there has been no trial.”

He also questioned the caning of Syahrul whose betting bids were Rp 1,000 each, while, “covert gambling operations with millions of rupiah at stake remain untouched by Shariah police raids.”

Evi Narti Zain, executive director of the Aceh human rights NGO coalition, also questioned why the four men arrested for playing dominoes in Indrapuri subdistrict on Dec. 28, deserved to be lashed six times.

“The Rp 1,000 stake might have been just for fun. Afterwards, the money might have been used to buy themselves a meal. These things should be considered in the Shariah court,” she told the Globe.

Evi said that the case further illustrated the victimization of the lower classes and the absence of justice in the enforcement of Shariah, which was “ discriminatory, especially against women.”

“It’s not the Shariah law itself that’s at fault here, but the implementation of the law is wrong.”

Since the law was put into effect in Aceh in 2001, she said, it had focused on the same issues, “raids against women wearing tight clothing or not covering their head, arrest of people going on a date, common people playing games of chance.”

“Meanwhile, there are other aspects relating to public service that do not comply with Islamic law,” Evi said.

Teungku Faisal Ali, secretary general of the Aceh Ulema Association, admitted in a separate interview that Shariah had remained at a standstill due to a lack of seriousness on the part of the government to implement it as suggested by the Koran and the hadiths [the sayings of Prophet Muhammad].

“In the last three years, the use of Shariah has taken a step backward because the legal structure is inadequate and the government is not serious in fully applying the law,” he said.

Faisal, who also chairs the Aceh branch of Nahdlatul Ulama, said that as a result, the public had come to think of the law as discriminatory and unfair.

“Shariah recognizes no discrimination, because Islam is a blessing for the universe and its occupants. Islam is fair and indiscriminate in the upholding of justice. Those who are guilty should be punished, though in Islam those who repent can also be forgiven,” he said. “Islam holds mankind in high esteem, especially women, because it is a great and noble religion.”

The use of Shariah was granted during Abdurrahman Wahid’s administration, more as an attempt to resolve the conflict between the Free Aceh Movement and the national security forces.

Source: The Jakarta Globe


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