By: Hotli Simanjuntak
Imposing sharia on non-Muslims is inappropriate as Islamic law only regulates matters relevant to Islam and to do so tarnishes the image of the faith and thus harms it, says an Acehnese cleric.
“It is impossible for Islamic law to regulate the lives of non-Muslims, since they do not adhere to Islam,” said Aceh Clerics Association secretary-general Faisal Ali.
The Aceh Legislative Council recently passed the Qanun Acara Jinayat, a sharia-based criminal procedures code, which applies rules and punishments governing behavior in Islamic law to everyone in the province, including non-Muslims. Faisal called the measure a form of coercion and carelessness on the part of the legislature.
“This definitely is connected with this year’s legislative and presidential elections,” said Faisal.
According to him, the passage of this qanun (bylaw) was a ploy by Aceh’s lawmakers and reflected a poor understanding of religion and law.
“It would be very difficult to apply such a qanun in Aceh because not all of the residents in Aceh are Muslim,” said Faisal.
On Thursday, in announcing the Qanun Acara Jinayat, councilor Abdullah Saleh said: “The qanun does indeed oblige everyone in Aceh to follow sharia without exception.”
Article 5 of the Qanun Acara Jinayat states that bylaws governing behavior that is illegal under sharia would be applied to everyone in Aceh.
The head of legal affairs at the Aceh provincial secretariat, Edrian, confirmed that the Qanun Acara Jinayat, which was passed by the Aceh legislature and then approved by Governor Zaini Abdullah on Dec. 13, 2013, had been submitted to the Home Ministry on Feb. 2 this year.
“We are still waiting for the Home Ministry to verify and revise the qanun, which can take 60 days. Hopefully the ministry will immediately respond to the matter so it can be immediately enacted,” said Edrian.
In anticipation of its enactment, on Wednesday sharia police pulled over female motorists in Banda Aceh who were not wearing a headscarf. Non-Muslim motorists were allowed to go with a warning to start covering their heads in public.
Male motorists wearing shorts were also pulled over and told to start exclusively wearing pants outside their homes.
Head of the Aceh Provincial Sharia Enforcement Office Samuddin said three-time violators — Muslim or not — of sharia could be publicly caned.
Non-Muslim residents in Aceh have expressed their objections.
“It’s weird. A far as I know, a headscarf is just for Muslim women, right?” said a Buddhist who refused to give his name.
The Qanun Acara Jinayat was first proposed in 2009 but it was nixed by then governor Irwandi Yusuf amid loud criticism from human rights activists.
Meanwhile, Edrian said Aceh had four sharia-based criminal bylaws that have been enforced in the province since 2003. They are Qanun No. 11/2002 on religious affairs, worship and religious symbols, Qanun No. 12/2003 on khamar (consumption of alcohol), Qanun No. 13/2003 on gambling and Qanun No. 14/2003 on khalwat (affectionate contact between an unmarried couple).
“The four qanun are part of the sharia-based criminal code, which will be regulated and implemented via the recently approved Qanun Acara Jinayat,” said Edrian on Friday.
According to Edrian, in the future, the Aceh administration and legislature would seek to implement a more comprehensive sharia-based criminal code that went beyond the four qanun currently enforced in the province.
He said, however, that in later practice, there was a possibility that sharia would not actually apply to non-Muslim citizens.
He did not give details on what might exempt someone from sharia.