A public caning in Aceh.
The first time that public canings were carried out in the Indonesian province of Aceh was a cause of much press comment but clearly the novelty of it has worn off. The latest canings, of six people, for gambling offences, were reported in the English press only by Xinhua as far as I can tell.
This time, on Sunday the 13th of February, five out of seven people, three men and four women, who had been found playing a gambling game in a refugee camp, were each given six strokes of the cane in accordance with the Sharia law No. 13. Of the remaining two, one, a man thought to be the leader of the gambling ring, was given nine strokes, and another, a 16 year-old girl, who was in tears, was deemed too young for the punishment and was handed over to her father.
The canings were carried out on the grounds of the Grand Mosque in the town of Lhokseumawe. A large crowd, composed of people from all walks of life and including children, which had begun gathering three hours before the big event, witnessed the thing and were said to have enthusiastically counted out the strokes. Others screamed out and some were heard to recite verses from the Koran. Some of them climbed trees to get a better view. A video of the proceedings can be viewed at http://www.metrotvnews.com/videonews.asp?id=10938&tipe=AKTUAL.
The man who received nine strokes did not seem to take the matter too seriously as he waved and smiled at the crowd upon ascending the podium where the punishment was carried out. The official who delivered the canings was robed in a dark brown outfit that covered his entire body, with only slits for his eyes.
A. Murad, the head of the local sharia court, said that this was the first time such a punishment had been done in Lhokseumawe and was evidence of the Aceh government's determination to implement Islamic law fully, and "kita tidak main-main dalam hal in", or, wer'e not playing around with this.
The process of the penetration of Islam in the former Dutch East Indies is one of gradual tightening in the application of the original precepts of the faith. Aceh was the first part of what is today Indonesia to come under the influence of Islam. It can be wondered if what is seen now in Aceh is the future for all of Indonesia.