Sharia bylaws ‘time bomb’

Posted on April 25, 2012

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Bambang Muryanto, The Jakarta Post, Yogyakarta | Fri, 04/20/2012 7:36 AM

Source: The Jakarta PostSource: The Jakarta PostSharia bylaws drafted and implemented by several local administrations in the country could be a time bomb with the potential to trigger social conflicts in mixed communities, according to scholars.

Syamsul Anwar, a lecturer at the Yogyakarta-based Kalijaga State Islamic University (UIN), called on local administrations to pay attention to content as well as process in drafting their bylaws in order to avoid creating social conflict.

“They should be selective in terms of materials to be drafted as regulations. They must concentrate only on the principle,” Syamsul said in Yogyakarta on Thursday.

Notable lawyer Todung Mulya Lubis suggested some groups had vested interests in initiating the adoption of sharia bylaws.

“This could be a time bomb for us all,” he said when addressing an international seminar in Yogyakarta on Wednesday. The seminar at the UIN discussed sharia, the state and globalization.

Only two years after regional autonomy was launched in 1999, regencies and municipalities in West Sumatra, Banten, West Java and South Sulawesi issued several sharia-based bylaws in those predominantly Muslim provinces.

Many more followed suit, and by early 2010 more than 150 bylaws, regulations and circulars were found to be problematic and discriminative according to the national women’s rights body.

Todung suspected a hidden agenda given the drafting processes, which seemed to curtail public participation and lack academic analysis.

He noted as many as 78 sharia bylaws had been issued in 52 regencies/municipalities in the country.

With the potential to trigger social conflicts, sharia could not be justified in a pluralist Indonesia, Todung said.

Indonesia has never been an Islamic state, he pointed out.

“Jurisdiction-wise, religious affairs should be the central government’s domain, not a local issue,” he said, adding that bylaws that contravened major legislation or the Constitution could taint Indonesia’s status as a country where the rule of law was upheld.

“This is the most sensitive issue in Indonesia,” he said.

He expressed hopes that the issue would be addressed more seriously in the future, considering that Indonesia was home to people of many different creeds.

The Wahid Institute, in its survey on sharia-inspired bylaws, has discovered that local rules frequently violated the law on regional administration.

However, a legal expert in Aceh dismissed the “time bomb” suggestions.

“We must look at where the sharia bylaws are implemented. In Aceh, there is no opposition to the bylaws,” Safuddin Bantasyam, a law lecturer at Syiah Kuala University, said in Banda Aceh.

Aceh, with special autonomy under the 1999 Aceh Administration Law, has already issued 54 of 59 bylaws or qanun slated to be issued by 2012.

Several bylaws regulate an “Islamic” lifestyle and an Islamic court. The province has also set up a special police force to enforce sharia.

Violators of the Islamic bylaws may face penalties such as caning. The most controversial bylaw has been one on the Criminal Code, which includes the penalty of being stoned to death for people found guilty of adultery.

Safuddin said other religions were welcome in Aceh despite the implementation of sharia because the laws were applicable only to Muslims.

“That might be different if implemented in regions with more a diverse community,” he said.

Syamsul pointed out the need to consider social demography in implementing sharia bylaws. “The implementation of sharia should take into consideration the social conditions. Sharia is not necessarily identical to an Islamic state,” he said.

Other speakers in the seminar included Farish Ahmad Noor of Nanyang University, Singapore, Wael B. Hallaq of Columbia University, US and Raihanah Abdullah of the University of Malaya, Malaysia.

— Hotli Simanjuntak contributed reporting from Banda Aceh

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