Aceh Clerics Hit Back at Amnesty International’s Statement
Nurdin Hasan | May 23, 2011
Banda Aceh. Acehnese clerics have criticized Amnesty International's call for the Indonesian government to repeal a bylaw that allowed caning, arguing that the practice did not violate any regulation in the world.
In a statement released on Sunday, Amnesty said that caning violated the UN Convention Against Torture, which Indonesia ratified in 1998, and urged central government to review the bylaw to conform with international and national human rights laws and standards.
Clerics in Banda Aceh, however, dismissed the criticism, saying it originated from an ignorance of Shariah law, Islam and Indonesia.
“It is their right to criticize,” said Teungku Muslim Ibrahim, head of the province’s Consultative Assembly of Ulema (MPU) and a professor at Aceh's State Islamic Institute (IAIN). “But as long as they do not seek to understand Shariah, they will continue to criticize something they know little about.”
He said the regulation governing caning as judicial punishment was in line with the country’s laws and did “not violate any regulation in the world.”
Caning adopted partial Shariah Law in 2001 as part of an autonomy package aimed at quelling separatist sentiment. Caning carried out there is mainly aimed at causing shame rather than injury. It is also used as a mandatory punishment for certain crimes in Malaysia, Singapore and Brunei.
“People criticize because they don't understand. The rules in Aceh are clear,” Muslim said. “The Koran says that those who believe in Allah and Rasulullah Muhammad Sallalaahu Alaihi Wassalam must not abide by laws other than the ones determined by their God."
He added that caning did not violate the UN Convention on Human Rights because the convention respected compromises made by a community, big or small.
“Moreover, the Islamic community in Aceh is a majority. Caning is only applied to Islamic followers,” Muslim said, adding that regulations applied to the size and length of the cane as well as the distance between the Shariah violator and punishment executor.
Teungku Faisal Ali, the head of the Aceh chapter of Nahdlatul Ulama (NU), said those who criticized caning in Aceh tended to "dislike" Islam.
“Why didn't they criticize caning in Singapore? Why didn't they protest the banning of the head scarf in France? Why didn't they protest Israel, which keeps on violating the UN resolutions?” said Faisal, who is also the secretary of Aceh's Dayah Ulama Association (Huda), an organization comprised of the province's traditional ulema.
“I think Amnesty International doesn't have to intervene the application of Islamic Shariah in Aceh,” he added.
“Tell me, what law is violated in Aceh's application of Shariah? What we apply in Aceh is a national law, which has been acknowledged as part of Aceh's special autonomy. Everyone must respect Islamic Shariah in Aceh,” he said.
( x the JG)