News

    Aceh's Sharia Law Still Controversial in Indonesia

    Lawmakers in Indonesia's Aceh Province recently passed a law that imposes death by stoning on Muslim adulterers.  Aceh was granted the right to implement Sharia law under a peace agreement with the national government that ended a long separatist struggle.  But the laws and punishments are unpopular and, many argue, at odds with Indonesia's national laws. 

    Banda Aceh's grand mosque is a soaring monument to Islam.

    It is here, on the northern tip of Sumatra, that Arab traders brought Islam to Southeast Asia.  And it is here today that conservative Muslims seek the establishment of full Sharia law.

    Under an agreement with the Indonesian government to end three decades of separatist fighting, the province received the right to implement Sharia.  For instance, caning is used to punish Muslims caught gambling and drinking, and for unwed couples engaging in sexual activity.

    In September lawmakers went a step further, passing a law that would punish Muslim adulterers with being stoned to death.

    Prosperous Justice Party member Moharriadi Syafari was a sponsor of the bill.  He explains that it is difficult for people in the West to understand Sharia, but the stoning law has the support of Acehnese people.

    He says they do not understand why in America there is death by injection and in China execution by shooting.  Syafari says that stoning is what is ordered by God and when they implement Sharia they will receive blessings."

    But Eva Zain, the director of the Aceh Human Rights NGO Coalition, says extreme interpretations of Sharia law are not compatible with Aceh's culture.

    "They are creating a regulation with what they thought, not what is the context today, what is the psychology, what people in Aceh need," said Zain.

    Objections have also been raised in Jakarta, where the central government has called for a review of the law.

    Professor Nasaruddin Umar heads the Islamic Community Guidance office at the national Ministry of Religion.  He refers to the stoning law using the Indonesian word "rajam".

    "Why do you need the the 'rajam' law?  It is very different to the Mohammed period," said Umar.  "Mohammed tried to avoid, but why are you looking for the rajam.  This is very different.  When [in] the Mohammed period there was only one case .., rajam case."

    Supporters of the law say it is unlikely that an adulterer will ever be stoned to death.  But they say the law is necessary as a deterrent. 

    Muslim Ibrahim is the head of the Aceh Ulema's Council.  He explains the requirement of four witnesses will mean convictions are almost impossible.  He agrees the punishment is cruel, but it is important that people are overshadowed by the law.  If people are afraid they will not commit the crime.

    Acehnese people are divided.

    Some, like Ade, see it as part of their commitment to Islam.  She supports the law since it has been used for a long time, since the era of the Prophet.  She says it is not cruel because adultery is a big sin.

    Anwar is less certain.  He says he understands that according to Islam adulterers must be stoned to death, but he is not sure for Aceh and Indonesia if that law is the way it should be.  He says, however, in the end they will support it.

    Others worry that the law will be enforced unfairly, with those with political connections avoiding punishment.  And some fear that it not be imposed in true accordance with Islam.

    Rights activist Zain says if Muslims like herself speak out against the law, they are labeled unbelievers or against Sharia.  She says lawmakers and others are manipulating the law for political ends and should focus instead on developing Aceh.

    "How to bring justice for the victims during the conflict, that's what we need now. We need education regulation.  And then we need regulation on health, where it is easy to access to health [care]," she said.  "We need the welfare, where is the economic growth?"

    Some of the lawmakers who supported the law were voted out of Aceh's legislature in April. Many in the province hope the new parliament will repeal or revise the law.
     
    Acehenese legal groups say if lawmakers fail to do so, they will challenge the stoning law in Jakarta's Supreme Court.

    This forum has been closed.
    Comments
         
    There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

    Featured Videos

    Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
    Brexit Vote Plunges Global Markets Into Uncharted Territoryi
    X
    June 24, 2016 9:38 PM
    British voters plunged global markets into unknown territory after they voted Thursday to leave the European Union. The results of the Brexit vote, the term coined to describe the referendum, caught many off guard. Analysts say the resulting volatility could last for weeks, perhaps longer. Mil Arcega reports.
    Video

    Video Brexit Vote Plunges Global Markets Into Uncharted Territory

    British voters plunged global markets into unknown territory after they voted Thursday to leave the European Union. The results of the Brexit vote, the term coined to describe the referendum, caught many off guard. Analysts say the resulting volatility could last for weeks, perhaps longer. Mil Arcega reports.
    Video

    Video Orlando Shooting Changes Debate on Gun Control

    It’s been nearly two weeks since the largest mass shooting ever in the United States. Despite public calls for tighter gun control laws, Congress is at an impasse. Democratic lawmakers resorted to a 1960s civil rights tactic to portray their frustration. VOA’s Carolyn Presutti explains how the Orlando, Florida shooting is changing the debate.
    Video

    Video Tunisian Fishing Town Searches for Jobs, Local Development Solutions

    As the European Union tries to come to grips with its migrant crisis, some newcomers are leaving voluntarily. But those returning to their home countries face an uncertain future.  Five years after Tunisia's revolution, the tiny North African country is struggling with unrest, soaring unemployment and plummeting growth. From the southern Tunisian fishing town of Zarzis, Lisa Bryant takes a look for VOA at a search for local solutions.
    Video

    Video 'American Troops' in Russia Despite Tensions

    Historic battle re-enactment is a niche hobby with a fair number of adherents in Russia where past military victories are played-up by the Kremlin as a show of national strength. But, one group of World War II re-enactors in Moscow has the rare distinction of choosing to play western ally troops. VOA's Daniel Schearf explains.
    Video

    Video Experts: Very Few Killed in US Gun Violence Are Victims of Mass Shootings

    The deadly shooting at a Florida nightclub has reignited the debate in the U.S. over gun control. Although Congress doesn't provide government health agencies funds to study gun violence, public health experts say private research has helped them learn some things about the issue. VOA's Carol Pearson reports.
    Video

    Video Trump Unleashes Broadside Against Clinton to Try to Ease GOP Doubts

    Recent public opinion polls show Republican Donald Trump slipping behind Democrat Hillary Clinton in the presidential election matchup for November. Trump trails her both in fundraising and campaign organization, but he's intensifying his attacks on the former secretary of state. VOA National Correspondent Jim Malone reports.
    Video

    Video Muslim American Mayor Calls for Tolerance

    Syrian-born Mohamed Khairullah describes himself as "an American mayor who happens to be Muslim." As the three-term mayor of Prospect Park, New Jersey, he believes his town of 6,000 is an example of how ethnicity and religious beliefs should not determine a community's leadership. Ramon Taylor has this report from Prospect Park.
    Video

    Video Internal Rifts Over Syria Policy Could Be Headache for Next US President

    With the Obama administration showing little outward enthusiasm for adopting a more robust Syria policy, there is a strong likelihood that the internal discontent expressed by State Department employees will roll over to the next administration. VOA State Department correspondent Pam Dockins reports.
    Video

    Video Senegal to Park Colorful ‘Cars Rapide’ Permanently

    Brightly painted cars rapide are a hallmark of Dakar, offering residents a cheap way to get around the capital city since 1976. But the privately owned minibuses are scheduled to be parked for good in late 2018, as Ricci Shryock reports for VOA.
    Video

    Video Florida Gets $1 Million in Emergency Government Funding for Orlando

    The U.S. government has granted $1 million in emergency funding to the state of Florida to cover the costs linked to the June 12 massacre in Orlando. U.S. Attorney General Loretta Lynch announced the grant Tuesday in Orlando, where she met with survivors of the shooting attack that killed 49 people. Zlatica Hoke reports.
    Video

    Video How to Print Impossible Shapes with Metal

    3-D printing with metals is rapidly becoming more advanced. As printers become more affordable, the industry is partnering with universities to refine processes for manufacturing previously impossible things. A new 3-D printing lab aims to bring the new technology closer to everyday use. VOA's George Putic reports.
    Video

    Video Big Somali Community in Minnesota Observes Muslim Religious Feast

    Ramadan is widely observed in the north central US state of Minnesota, which a large Muslim community calls home. VOA Somali service reporter Mohmud Masadde files this report from Minneapolis, the state's biggest city.

    Special Report

    Adrift The Invisible African Diaspora