ISLAMIC LAW IN INDONESIA
When Indonesia gained independence, it early leaders rejected a proposal to establish a justice system based on “sharia” (Islamic law). Until recently both politicians and clerics believed that politics and religion should remain separate. Now enacting Islamic law nationwide or in certain regions is a hotly debated issue. There have been demonstrations for the imposition of Islamic law across Indonesia.
Many Indonesians would like to see the introduction of Islamic law. A survey by the Center for Islamic and Social Studies in 2003 found that 71 percent of Indonesians would like the official imposition of Muslim law, up 10 percent from 2001. But when asked what Islamic law was their views were more moderate. Only 36 percent said the law should require women to wear traditionally headscarves and fewer than that supported punishments like amputation for thievery but some said they wanted to see religious police enforce fasting during Ramadan.
Islamic law in its most extreme form has been imposed on the local level in some places. In one village in Maluka an adulterer was sentenced death in an Islamic court in the early 2000s. He was buried up to waist and stoned to death by a mob. The leader of a local Islamic group that had political control of the court was arrested but was not prosecuted for murder. In southern Java around the same time a local governor pressured by local Islamic groups passed decrees that 1) required students of all religions to take Islamic studies; 2) called for swimming pools to be segregated by sex; and 3) initiated a zero-tolerance policy towards gambling, prostitution, alcohol and pornography. Some conservative Islamic politician would like to reform patents laws under sharia. A member of the Crescent Star Party told the Los Angeles Times, “Western countries give to much power to inventors and founders without considerations to peoples needs.
Local Government Sharia Laws in Indonesia
Although not specifically classified as Sharia, many local governments attempt to implement Sharia-inspired regulations. A 2011 media report indicated that there are more than 150 Sharia-inspired laws in the country. Although these regulations are unevenly enforced and apply only to Muslims, many Muslim scholars and human rights activists claim that these regulations create or increase discrimination against women. In some cases these laws require Muslim women to wear headscarves in public and prevent Muslim women from receiving government services if they are not wearing headscarves. Some local regulations also mandate that elected Muslim officials, students, civil servants, and individuals seeking marriage licenses be able to read the Quran in Arabic and prohibit Muslims from consuming alcohol and gambling. Other regulations prohibit the sale of food and beverages during the day throughout the month of Ramadan and make mandatory the payment of zakat, or alms, for Muslims. [Source: International Religious Freedom Report for 2012, Indonesia, U.S. Department of State ]
During Ramadan, many local governments ordered either the closure or a reduction in operating hours of various entertainment establishments. Several regional governments issued circulars limiting the operating hours of night entertainment venues, cafes, and restaurants during the month of Ramadan. Some of the restaurants chose to close voluntarily while others, if not serving halal food, remained open, often posting a sign that the business was not Muslim-owned. The government implemented Sharia-based regulations in a number of areas. In August the mayor of Gorantolo, Sulawesi refused to allow a civil servant to take his post after the new employee failed to read the Quran in Arabic during his swearing in ceremony. After two months, the civil servant was able to read the Quran in Arabic and assumed his post.
Bambang Muryanto wrote in the Jakarta Post, “Sharia bylaws drafted and implemented by several local administrations in the country could be a time bomb with the potential to trigger social conflicts in mixed communities, according to scholars.Syamsul Anwar, a lecturer at the Yogyakarta-based Kalijaga State Islamic University (UIN), called on local administrations to pay attention to content as well as process in drafting their bylaws in order to avoid creating social conflict. “They should be selective in terms of materials to be drafted as regulations. They must concentrate only on the principle,” Syamsul said in Yogyakarta on Thursday. [Source: Bambang Muryanto, Jakarta Post, April 20, 2012 ]
“Notable lawyer Todung Mulya Lubis suggested some groups had vested interests in initiating the adoption of sharia bylaws. “This could be a time bomb for us all,” he said. Regencies and municipalities in West Sumatra, Banten, West Java and South Sulawesi have issued several sharia-based bylaws in those predominantly Muslim provinces. By early 2010 more than 150 bylaws, regulations and circulars were found to be problematic and discriminative according to the national women’s rights body.
“Todung suspected a hidden agenda given the drafting processes, which seemed to curtail public participation and lack academic analysis. He noted as many as 78 sharia bylaws had been issued in 52 regencies/municipalities in the country. “Jurisdiction-wise, religious affairs should be the central government’s domain, not a local issue,” he said, adding that bylaws that contravened major legislation or the Constitution could taint Indonesia’s status as a country where the rule of law was upheld. He expressed hopes that the issue would be addressed more seriously in the future, considering that Indonesia was home to people of many different creeds. The Wahid Institute, in its survey on sharia-inspired bylaws, has discovered that local rules frequently violated the law on regional administration.”
See Local Government
Sharia in Aceh
Islamic law has been implemented to a limited degree in Aceh, the only province in Indonesia authorized by national legislation to implement Sharia (Islamic law). In 2001, Aceh adopted a form of Shariah law. In 2003, Aceh courts were granted freedom to use sharia law as part of an autonomy package the central government offered in an effort to quell separatism in the province, where thousands died in a long-running insurgency. Since Aceh adopted sharia in 2001, the province has implemented four qanun (Islamic bylaws) including one on Islamic propagation, one on khalwat — a bylaw where unmarried couples are punished for being in close proximity — one on alcoholic beverages and one on gambling. In 2009, Qanun Jinayat, a set of bylaws that replaces elements of the Criminal Code with sharia provisions for Muslims, was endorsed by the Aceh Legislative Council.
As of 2012, Ace had issued 54 sharia bylaws or qanun. The laws regulate women's dress and public morality, require shops and other places to close at prayer time. According to Associated Press: “It is unclear how popular the sharia provisions are with locals in Aceh, which is devout by Indonesian standards but not to the extent of parts of Pakistan or the Middle East. Enforcement of the laws is patchy and mostly targets young men and women. Caning, when applied, is typically aimed at causing humiliation rather than pain.” [Source: Associated Press, January 7, 2013 ^]
Presidential Decree 11/2003 formally allows for the implementation of Sharia law and established Sharia courts in Aceh. Subsequently, the provincial government passed three Sharia laws, one governing relations between members of the opposite sex and two others banning alcohol consumption and gambling. Until 2014, non-Muslims were specifically exempted but new legislation was passed that year that stated non-Muslims were not exempt. The penalty for more serious violations of Sharia can include caning. Persons subject to caning in Aceh are fully clothed — sometimes with several layers of clothes. There are also regulations effectively limiting the amount of force that may be applied during a caning. [Source: International Religious Freedom Report for 2012, Indonesia, U.S. Department of State ]
Impact of Aceh’s Sharia Laws on Indonesia
Indonesians are wondering if Aceh will become a testing ground for sharia laws where caning people will common practice or whether Aceh will always be the exception to the rest of the country. Since 2005, many other regions in Indonesia have issued sharia-inspired bylaws that ban such things as alcohol or tight clothing. Former President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono's government, which relied on the support of Muslim political parties, was largely silent on the proposals.
Jane Perlez wrote in the New York Times, “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. [Source: Jane Perlez, New York Times, August 1, 2006 ^*^]
“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.: ^*^
Atheism and Blasphemy Laws in Indonesia
In April 2010, the Constitutional Court upheld the 1965 Blasphemy Law, holding that the government maintains the power to impose limitations on religious freedoms based upon security considerations. The law provides for a maximum sentence of five years’ imprisonment for blasphemy. NGOs have reported an increase in the government’s application of the blasphemy law. In 2012, the government convicted 10 people under the law, up from four in 2011. According to NGO reports, since the blasphemy law was passed in 1965, the government has used it to convict 38 individuals of crimes related to blasphemy. More than half of all convictions under this law have occurred since 2009. [Source: International Religious Freedom Report for 2012, Indonesia, U.S. Department of State]
In July 2012, the Sampang District Court sentenced Shia cleric Tajul Muluk to two years in prison for blasphemy following the issuance of a fatwa by a local Islamic clerical council that called his teaching deviant and Shia Islam heretical. Following an appeal by Muluk in September, the sentence was extended to four years. Among other offenses, the judges found Muluk guilty of telling his followers they did not need to pray five times each day. Antonius Richmond Bawengan, who was sentenced to five years’ imprisonment for blasphemy in February 2011, remained in prison at year’s end.
Atheism came under increased scrutiny during the year after the arrest and conviction of an atheist for allegedly inciting religious hatred with a posting on Facebook. On June 14, a court sentenced civil servant Alexander Aan to 30 months in prison for posting atheist statements and material that a local council of Muslim clerics deemed blasphemous on his Facebook page. Aan was convicted of violating the Information and Electronic Transaction Law, which forbids disseminating information designed to spread hatred toward or dissension among individuals and/or certain community groups on the basis of ethnicity, religion, or race. Following his conviction, Aan publicly renounced atheism and reportedly converted (back) to Islam. At year’s end he remained in prison.
In April 2010, Human Rights Watch reported: “Indonesia's Constitutional Court dealt a severe blow to religious freedom by upholding a controversial law prohibiting "blasphemy." The court, in an 8-1 decision on April 19, 2010, ruled that the blasphemy law, which provides criminal penalties for those who express religious beliefs that deviate from the central tenets of the six officially recognized religions, is a lawful restriction of minority religious beliefs because it allows for the maintenance of public order. "The Constitutional Court's decision on the blasphemy law poses a real threat to the beliefs of Indonesia's religious minorities," said Elaine Pearson, deputy Asia director at Human Rights Watch. [Source: Human Rights Watch, April 19, 2010 ~~]
“The constitutional challenge to the blasphemy law was filed in October 2009 by a group of Indonesian nongovernmental organizations and individuals led by former president Abdurrahman Wahid, a longtime Muslim supporter of religious freedom and tolerance. The petitioners argued that the law violated the constitutional right to freedom of expression and Indonesia's obligations under international human rights treaties. Indonesia's blasphemy law, article 156a of the Indonesian criminal code, punishes deviations from the central tenets of the six officially recognized religions with up to five years in prison. It is based on a 1965 government regulation, issued by then-President Sukarno, which declared that five religions were officially recognized in Indonesia: Islam, Protestantism, Catholicism, Buddhism, and Hinduism. Confucianism was added to this list in 1998.” ~~
Indonesia’s Blasphemy Laws used Against Minorities
According to Human Rights Watch: The blasphemy law has been used to prosecute and imprison members of religious minorities and of traditional religions. In 2006, a Jakarta court sentenced three leaders of a spiritual movement called the Eden Community — Lia Eden, M. Abdul Rachman, and Wahyu Andito Putro Wibisono — to prison terms of two to three years for violating the blasphemy law. Others prosecuted under the law include members of the many traditional religions practiced in Java, Sumatra, Borneo, Sulawesi, and other parts of Indonesia. "The blasphemy law criminalizes the peaceful expression of certain religious beliefs," Pearson said. "It hangs like a ‘Sword of Damocles' over the heads of religious minorities and those who practice traditional religions." [Source: Human Rights Watch, April 19, 2010 ~~]
“The blasphemy law also serves as the legal basis for a number of government regulations that facilitate official discrimination on the basis of religion. These include a June 2008 government decree that ordered members of the Ahmadiyah religious community to cease all public religious activities on the grounds that they deviated from the principal teachings of Islam and threatened violators with up to five years in prison. The decree was issued in the aftermath of a violent attack on June 1, 2008, by more than 500 Islamist militants on a group of peaceful demonstrators supporting religious pluralism. More than 60 demonstrators were wounded by the group, who called themselves the Islam Troop Command, and several Ahmadiyah members were hospitalized.” ~~
Arghea Desafti Hapsari wrote in the Jakarta Post, Religious minorities have expressed their support for a group of NGOs that have requested the 1965 Blasphemy Law be reviewed, saying the controversial law is outdated and irrelevant to a democratic Indonesia.“Our society has matured since the law was first established in 1965. Civil society at that time was weak and that is why such laws were put in place and the guided democracy system was used,” PGI secretary-general Gomar Gultom told The Jakarta Post on Tuesday. “But in the Reform era, Indonesians no longer wanted to be ordered around by the state,” he added. [Source: Arghea Desafti Hapsari, Jakarta Post, February 4 2010 |=|]
Under the law, the government also has the authority to charge leaders and followers of suspected heretical groups. Article 1 of the law stipulates that it is illegal to “intentionally publicize, recommend or organize public support for a different interpretation of a religion practiced in Indonesia or a religious ritual resembling that of another religion”. It is also states that “practising an interpretation of a religion that deviates from the core of that religion’s teachings” is illegal. |=|
The 1965 law, he explained, had allowed the state to interfere in what should be a private and religious domain.“Blasphemous acts should be solved by strengthening the faith of each religion’s followers. Blasphemy will always occur; different interpretations are something we can not avoid. But we have to see this as criticism of religious institutions. Their leaders might not care about their followers enough, or they might not have done their jobs well enough to maintain their followers’ faith in their religions,” he said.” |=|
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Last updated June 2015