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A Look at Shariah in Aceh, 10 Years On

BY NURDIN HASAN


Banda Aceh, TAG –  Ten years ago, Shariah-inspired bylaws were put into effect in Aceh province. But some activists and clerics are unhappy with their impact. Some say the bylaws go too far. Others say they don’t go far enough.


Where the criticism seems to converge is the claim that the bylaws have been discriminatory, targeting women and common citizens while leaving political elites largely unaffected.
Teungku Faisal Ali, chairman of the Aceh chapter of Nahdlatul Ulama, the largest Muslim group in the country, said the bylaws had failed to have any real effect on Aceh society because they were not strong enough. 
He blamed the shortcomings on a lack of political will by the local government. 
“Conditions today are the same as 10 years ago,” Faisal said. “In fact, during the last five years, Islamic Shariah has been going nowhere in terms of regulations and enforcement.” 
Shariah bylaws in Aceh, he said, were limited to trivial and moral-based concerns like gambling, alcohol consumption and dressing in Islamic attire. 
Faisal said he regretted the fact that more pressing rules such as those mandating the severing of hands for acts of stealing — including corruption and embezzlement — had not been adopted. 
“The attitude of bureaucrats in managing state funds is not based on Islamic law,” he said. “That is why there are many corruption cases in Aceh.” 
For Nursiti, chairwoman of the Aceh Women’s Empowerment Coalition, the major weakness of the laws was a lack of specificity, which had allowed people too much leeway in interpreting how the laws should be enforced. 
“People can do whatever they want as long as they do it under the guise of Islamic Shariah,” she said. 

A good example, Nursiti said, was adultery. A person accused of adultery often faces mob justice and must endure degrading treatment such as being paraded around the village after being stripped naked and splashed with raw sewage. 
“The ones who often fall victim are women,” she said. “People claim they want to implement Shariah law, but they are often the ones who are clearly violating the law. 
“But these acts of people taking the law into their own hands are tolerated. There has been no sanction against the perpetrators.” 
Nursiti also said it was unfair that bureaucrats and political elites were never punished based on the bylaws. 
“Those caned have always been ordinary citizens who do not understand the law,” she said, “while a number of officials and politicians caught red-handed violating the same bylaws are never caned.” 
Rusli Ali Muhammad, chief of the Aceh Islamic Shariah Office, said the government was still working on perfecting the laws. 
“We do realize that the supporting regulations needed for the enforcement of Islamic Shariah in Aceh has not been maximized, so we cannot properly implement them according to people’s expectations,” he said. 

Shariah in Aceh, Rusli said, was divided into criminal law, economic law and morality. 
“The bylaws on crimes cannot be implemented to this day because there are punishment clauses considered controversial,” he said. “Therefore, the executive and legislative branches in Aceh need to sit down and work out the best solution.” 
Aceh, he said, was also preparing regulations on Shariah-based economies including on the management of state funds. 
Rusli said that for morality, Aceh also needed to reconsider the best method for enforcement adding that current methods had failed to stop cases of immoral acts such as drinking alcohol, committing adultery and blasphemy. 
Aceh adopted partial Sharia Law in 2001 as part of an autonomy agreement aimed at quelling separatist sentiment. 
The province’s autonomous status made possible its legislature’s decision to pass laws legalizing corporal punishments considered human rights abuses elsewhere, such as caning.[]
A Look at Shariah in Aceh, 10 Years On A Look at Shariah in Aceh, 10 Years On Reviewed by Nurdin Hasan on January 04, 2012 Rating: 5

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