Study Group Finds Aceh's Women and Poor Suffering Under Enforcement of Shari'ah Law

July 31, 2006

Source: Khaleej Times

Wire Service: AFP

On July 31, 2006 Agence France-Presse reported, "A rising moral vigilantism which has flared with the gradual implementation of Islamic law in Indonesia’s Aceh province has victimised women and the poor, a think tank said in a report released on Monday. Enforcing Islamic or Shariah law has also created murky divisions of labour between roaming squads of vice police and ordinary police that may pose longer-term security difficulties, the Brussels-based International Crisis Group (ICG) said. Aceh, which was gripped by a 29-year separatist conflict that ended formally last year after the province was lashed by the 2004 Indian Ocean tsunami, is the only part of Indonesia with the legal right to apply Shariah law. While it has long been a staunchly Muslim heartland, since 1999 it has slowly put in place an institutional framework for Shariah enforcement. Islamic courts were given approval to extend their reach to criminal justice in 2001, when a special autonomy law was passed. Today caning and fines are used as punishments for the consumption and sale of alcohol, gambling and illicit relations between men and women. While Shariah officials believe that strict enforcement will help bring broader goals like peace, reconstruction and reconciliation, the ICG said that officials tasked with codifying it are 'inadvertently producing something different.' This, the group said, was 'a religious bureaucracy committed to its own expansion; a focus on legislating and enforcing morality; and a quiet power struggle with secular law enforcement that may have long-term implications for both security sector and legal reform in Aceh.' 'There’s a wide gulf between the popularity of Islamic law in principle and the unpopularity of how it’s being enforced,' ICG Southeast Asia project director Sidney Jones said in a statement... 'Women complain that they are disproportionately the targets of WH raids, with far more operations against them for not wearing jilbabs than against men for not attending Friday prayer,' the ICG said."