Activists contest application of Sharia law to non-Muslims

The law is mainly meant to address violation in dress code, gambling, adultery and alcohol consumption among Muslims.

May 01 2014, 2:08 PM
Activists contest application of Sharia law to non-Muslims
A Sharia policeman (C) lectures some women who were arrested for wearing tight jeans, during a Sharia law raid in Banda Aceh.

Legal experts and human rights activists in Aceh province have opposed application of a new Islamic criminal procedural code that could see non-Muslims being tried in an Islamic (Sharia) court.

A controversial provision, Qanun Hukum Acara Jinayat (QHAJ), in the criminal procedure code states that non-Muslims can be prosecuted under Sharia law in Aceh if they participate with Muslims in offenses not regulated by Indonesian criminal law.

The law is mainly meant to address violation in dress code, gambling, adultery and alcohol consumption among Muslims.

The corpus of the new rules approved in February by local government is now under the scrutiny of the Ministry of Internal Affairs of Indonesia, which has asked the local government of Aceh for some clarification.

Zulfikar Mohammed, coordinator of the Aceh Human Rights Coalition which includes about 30 NGOs that defend human rights, regretted that local legislators have introduced a clause that is inviolation of religious freedom. "It is a form of discrimination against non-Muslims," he said. Mohammed confirmed having sent a request to the Ministry of Interior to cancel the controversial clause.

Saifuddin Bantasyah, a Muslim and a Law professor at the Syiah Kuala University in Banda Aceh, said that this is not enforceable. He cited a 2006 case in which three Christians and a Muslim involved in a gambling incident were brought to Sharia Court in Banda Aceh. During the trial the judge explained that Sharia Court is only for prosecuting Muslims. The judge ruled that Sharia Court had no jurisdiction or authority to proceed with the case as the accused had declined the option given for converting to Islam. In such a case, non-Muslims could be prosecuted under Indonesian criminal law for disturbing public order.

Another Islamic jurist Jamil Ibrahim, vice president of the Islamic Court in Aceh, too said that the new code should be applied only to Muslims, because non-Muslims, in the absence of their consent, are outside the Court's jurisdiction.

Faisal Ali, a Muslim leader and representative of the Aceh Clerics Association, views the introduction of the new Criminal Code of Sharia as "a political ploy ahead of this year’s elections and reflects a poor understanding of religion and the law".

The Central Government in 2001 authorized the introduction of Sharia law in Aceh as part of a "special autonomy" in order to put an end to a long separatist conflict.

Source: Agenzia Fides

Top Stories

Philippines private groups heed Pope’s call to go to the peripheries

“I wholeheartedly endorse this BoB 2016 project of MBFI and GTFI as they continue to realize their commitment to help the needy,” added Archbishop Villegas.