Aceh & Sharia Law

Aceh has been in the news lately because of Miss Indonesia 2009 (Putri Indonesia) Qory Sandioriva. The controversy over Qory Sandioriva was her decision not to wear a Muslim headscarf for the Miss Indonesia 2009 (Putri Indonesia) contest because “hair is beauty, and I am proud of beauty.”

Aceh is the only province in Indonesia granted permission to implement Sharia law. On September 14, the outgoing Aceh Legislative Council passed a set of bylaws (Qanun Jinayat) that effectively replaces certain sections of the Criminal Code with Sharia laws for Muslims. These are ethical issues like consumption of alcohol, gambling, committing adultery and rape. But it is the punishment prescribed that worry people.  It includes whipping/caning and death by stoning.

The Aceh governor has reportedly refused to assent to these bylaws which call for the stoning of adulterers and 100 lashes for anyone caught engaging in premarital sex, among its other punishments. But the fact is that the governor’s signature is not needed after 30 days. 

And that 30 days is now up.  Moharriadi Syafari, a councilor from the Muslim-based Prosperous Justice Party (PKS), said that the bill automatically became law 30 days after being endorsed by the council despite the governor’s refusal to endorse the measure.

But why implement Sharia law in the first place? Moharriadi Syafari explained that it was to save people in Aceh from acts not approved by religion. Then softening somewhat, he said: “Just because the Qanun Jinayat has been passed, it doesn’t mean a lot of people will be stoned in Aceh. It’s very difficult to prove adultery.”

So should Sharia law be implemented? Khairil Azhar who graduated from the Sharia Faculty at Syarif Hidayatullah Islamic State University in Jakarta has just written an article in the Jakarta Post entitled “Why should there be sharia law in Indonesia?”. In it he said: ”I am a Muslim. My grandpa was a cleric and ran a madrasa, a traditional Islamic school. I went to a well known madrasa and have learnt Islamic teachings my whole life. I now teach Islamic teachings myself, to students as well as my collegial friends. But I have never found anything in the Koran that says sharia law must be imposed.”

But will not implementing and observing Sharia law make one an unbeliever of the Muslim faith?  Here is how he answered: “My mother recites the Koran almost everyday and she enjoys her safe and peaceful life in the village. Does she not deserve to enter paradise for her jihad as a real mother?  Will she go to hell because she chooses to live relatively far away from her neighbors because she seeks to avoid improper interaction with others in her life? Sorry, I have never found a single Islamic doctrine which says that she is an unbeliever for not participating in the jihad for sharia law.”

And Khairil Azhar concluded: “The Muslims who endorse sharia law are basically trapped in the symbolist hole: They are more concerned about the sharia law label vis-à-vis westernized and secular law. Many of them are actually dependant on the explanations given by their religious teachers and don’t bother learning the texts themselves. They tend to be blind to the basic principles of the Islamic legal philosophy, including the notion of brotherhood and social solidarity, the notion of an ideal law, the condemnation of antisocial behavior or even the presumption of innocence.”

Summing up Khairil Azhar said: “The radical figures inspiring the efforts to enact sharia law seem to think of sharia law as a panacea for every ill suffered by Muslims. They tend to avoid seriously thinking about the thousands of particular problems that each need their own solution. Consequently, they aren’t successful in improving the quality of life of poor Muslims, for instance. With their chosen shortcuts, new disasters are created, and not justice at all.”

Think about it.  Is Moharriadi Syafari right in saying that implementing Sharia law is meant to save people in Aceh from acts not approved by the Muslim religion? Or is Khairil Azhar right in saying that he had never found anything in the Koran that says sharia law must be imposed, or that one is an unbeliever for not participating in the Sharia law? And are Muslims trapped in a symbolist hole for endorsing Sharia law?

Earlier posts

Sharia Law In Aceh – Caning & Death
Sharia Law And Miss Indonesia 2009

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