As two people are caned for adultery in Aceh a report comes out claiming that women and the poor are victimised by sharia law in the province.
The two people caned on the 30th of July, a 23-year-old widow and a married 35-year-old teacher, were caught in a compromising situation at Sawang beach in late June. Nine and seven strokes respectively were meted out, with a rattan stick. A loudly enthusiastic crowd in the compound of the Al-Ikhsan mosque in Samadua, south Aceh, witnessed the spectacle. Their number was in the thousands.
Meanwhile, an Italian man, a worker for an NGO in Aceh, may also face caning for sexual offences. The amorous Italian, named Giuseppe, is being held by police for reportedly having "known" a local girl, named Wardiana, as well as for drug offences.
The Italian man was surprised by Acehnese Syariah police at a house in Pulo Kiton, Bireuen village, while in the act of celebrating his love for his Acehnese girlfriend, several days ago, said police Senior Commisioner Jodi Heriyadi.
Teungku Iskandar, a prominent figure in the province, said that foreigners should not escape the punishments of the sharia:
I hope whoever, including foreigners, who have breached the syariah law must be punished without exception.
In a timely fashion a new report, titled "Islamic Law and Criminal Justice in Aceh", on the application of sharia in Aceh, has been released by the International Crisis Group. It is long, detailed, and thoroughly researched, pdf file available.
Of most interest in the report is its claim that women and the poor are the main targets of the WH, wilayatul hisbah, or religious police. From the Executive Summary:
The zeal shown by the vice and virtue patrol [WH] in enforcing the regulations [against alcohol, gambling and illicit sex] has encouraged a report-on-your-neighbour process and a kind of moral vigilantism. Women and the poor have become the primary targets of enforcement. There is no indication that implementation of Shari'a is advancing justice for most Acehnese. But for many of its advocates, that may be beside the point. The real issue is whether man's law or God's will prevails.
Update 21 August
In the case of the Italian man it appears that only his girlfriend, Wardiana, will be processed according to sharia law. Giuseppe will be prosecuted over possession of marijuana. Usman, the Sharia Police Operational Commander explained how the two lovebirds were caught. The police received an anonymous SMS message telling them about the couple and how they had rented a house and visited it regularly, closing the curtains after they went inside.
The police staked out the place and waited for Giuseppe and Wardiana to arrive. The police peaked through the windows and saw the suspects acting "as if they were man and wife" and thereafter entered the room and arrested them. This all occured in the village of Iboih, Simpang district, Pidie regency.