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Shari’ah Spreads

ICC Note:

Though Aceh is the only province of Indonesia governed by Shari’ah (Islamic law), a large number of provinces have passed laws heavily influenced by Shari’ah.

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3/11/09 Indonesia (ChristianityToday) As candidates hit the campaign trail in preparation for July’s presidential election, Indonesian rights groups have voiced strong opposition to an increasing number of Shari’ah-inspired laws they say discriminate against religious minorities and violate Indonesia’s policy of the Pancasila, or “unity in diversity.”

Although Aceh is the only province governed by Shari’ah, more than 50 regencies in 16 of Indonesia’s 32 provinces have passed some 600 Shari’ah-influenced laws following the Regional Autonomy Law of 2000.

The laws vary widely. Legislation in Padang requires both Muslim and non-Muslim women to wear headscarves, while a law in Tangerang allows women found “loitering” on the street after 10 p.m. to be arrested for prostitution. Other laws include stipulations for Qur’an literacy among schoolchildren and severe punishment for adultery, alcoholism, and gambling.

Freedom of religion is guaranteed by Article 29 of Indonesia’s constitution, yet some regencies have adopted Shari’ah in a way that further marginalizes minority groups, said Syafi’i Anwar, executive director of the International Center for Islam and Pluralism. Citing the Padang headscarf example, he said, “This is unacceptable because it is not in line with the pluralism that the constitution recognizes.”

“Advocates of Shari’ah-based laws will stress the divine origin of Shari’ah and resist challenges [that are] based on constitutional or human rights limits,” he told The Jakarta Post. “They maintain that Shari’ah is authorized directly by God, and political opposition is viewed as apostasy or blasphemy.”

“This law will only empower vigilante groups like the Islamic Defender’s Front (FPI),” Eva Sundari, a member of the Democratic Party of Struggle (PDIP), told reporters. FPI is widely regarded as a self-appointed moral vigilante group, often raiding bars and nightclubs, but also responsible for multiple attacks on churches.

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