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Sharia Asia Spread Appeases Islamists, Risks Rights

ICC Note:

The rise of Sharia law is threatening rights in countries the U.S. considers “models of moderate Muslim democracies.”

9/16/09 Islam, Malaysia, Indonesia (Bloomberg.com) A 32-year-old mother may soon be caned in Malaysia as punishment for drinking a beer. Lawmakers in Indonesia’s Aceh province last month approved the stoning to death of adulterers and flogging of gays.

These are only the most recent signs of growing support among local governments for Islamic Shariah law in two countries the U.S. cites as models of moderate Muslim democracies.

Governments can’t avoid allowing religious laws for Muslims “where there is considerable pressure from the grassroots to cater specifically to Muslim interests,” he said. Going too far can lead “to segregation among the religious communities, and segregation is very likely to lead to instability.”

Shariah, based principally on laws from the Koran, sayings from the Prophet Mohammed and the opinions of Muslim scholars, is followed by many Muslims in such areas as diet, alcohol consumption, marriage and finance.

In Malaysia, Kartika Sari Dewi Shukarno was sentenced in July to six strokes of a cane for drinking beer by a Shariah court in the eastern state of Pahang. While caning is used to punish at least 40 crimes in the country, this was its first use for a religious offense. That judgment was followed by three others at the state level, with more pending.

Since Aceh first introduced a limited Shariah law in 2003, at least half of Indonesia’s 32 provinces have enacted their own variations, including some that apply to non-Muslims, according to Santa Ana, California-based Compass Direct News, a Christian organization that monitors religious discrimination.

Attitudes among Indonesian Muslims have hardened with the spread of Islamic courts, surveys show. A 2006 poll by the Indonesian Survey Institute found 48 percent of 1,173 respondents believed fornicators should be stoned, up from 39 percent in 2001. Thirty-eight percent said thieves should have their hands cut off, from 29 percent five years earlier. The margin of error was 3 percent.

Chief Minister Nik Aziz Nik Mat, who has governed the state since 1990, said everyone should follow Shariah laws, no matter what their religion. In Malaysia, 40 percent of the nation’s 27 million people are non-Muslim.

“People say it is violent to allow for stoning as a form of punishment, but who says adultery is not violent?” said Nik Aziz, also the party’s national spiritual adviser.

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