The Trouble With Syariah

Apr 16th, 2006, in News, by

Mardiyah Chamim, an Indonesian journalist, writes about her experiences of the application of sharia, or syariah, law in the province of Aceh in northern Sumatra.

It is a good piece mardiyahchamim, partly because it is fairly raw and unmotivated by ideology or hang-ups, both of which I confess to having or indulging in.

Mardiyah Chamim
The writer, Mardiyah Chamim.

She lists some examples of the unfairness of syariah in application like this one in an orphanage:

…….I sensed something was not right. At dinner time, there were only boys in the dining room. Where are the girls? “Inside their room,” a boy answered. I went to the girls room. How surprised I was when I saw all 30 young girls in one big room, chatting and doing other things.

“Why don’t you have dinner along with the boys?”

“We will have dinner after the boys finished,” said Noni, 9.

She says the original reason that sharia was given the go-ahead in Aceh was:

Back in 1999, Jakarta thought that application of Islamic law would erase conflict in Aceh. President BJ Habibie, at that time, believed that ordering syariah law, somehow, would heal the Acehnese’s wounded hearts which had been caused by injustice for many decades.

That was in 1999, but recently the will to enforce sharia has dramatically increased due to people’s fear of another tsunami.

Many Acehnese were demanding Wilayatul Hisbah (WH, the religious police) should redouble their effort to supervise people applying syariah. Everyone who was considered to acting against the law must be punished without mercy. Gambling, adultery, stealing have to be eliminated. Whipping shows in front of public which already taken place many times in cases of gambling and adultery has to be done more often. “We need strong action. God already punished us. We don’t want other tsunami,” those kinds of comments frequently appeared in newspapers and on posters.

She also lays some of the blame on Arab cultural imperialism and says that women are the main victims of sharia:

Women, unfortunately, easily became the main target of syariah. Those women who dare to not wear the headscarf in public place are caught, their hair is cut recklessly, their dress stripped by WH. Suraiyya Kamaruzaman, an activist, protested this humiliating approach. She demanded further discussion and said those actions by the WH were not necessary at all since what happened in Aceh is Arabization, not Islamization.

Her conclusion is not especially helpful however. She simply hopes that Islamic law can be applied with “tenderness and compassion” rather than brute force. She avoids questioning things too deeply. She lists some examples of how women object to being forced to cover their hair in the Arab fashion, like

[My daughter] is only 10, she hasn’t even got her first period yet. Let her grow and think what’s best for her. I do not like this situation. If my daughter wants to wear a jilbab, it has to be her own decision, not other’s. Besides, who are those WH to judge other people? How hypocrital.”

Indeed but…..does Islamic law require women to cover their hair? Simply complaining about this sort of hypocrisy:

Local government ordered serial regulation of daily business. One of rule said that all of stores, restaurants and coffee houses have to close their operation during praying times. So, it’s true, you would not find open coffee house in Aceh on praying time, especially on Friday noon, maghrib (sunset) and Isya (night) praying times. They were all closed, the front curtains drawn tightly. But, take a closer look, there is always a small open door in the back that you can go inside. Surprise, inside the coffee house you will find many people –most of them are men–who enjoy a cup of coffee sip by sip.

does not achieve much. If the men stopped being hypocrites would women then be required to cover their hair?

5 Comments on “The Trouble With Syariah”

  1. Hairays says:

    Whats this Arabisation all about? Syariah, closing, burning churches and suppressing women. Indonesia is heading back to the 14th century. The sad part is that the vast majority of people who don’t want syariah have been hijacked and are silent. The police cannot protect the minority and others from violent attacks by “Islamic defenders” FPI. I wonder what these thugs are defending Islam from? The best way to deal with them is to face them militiarily since neither the politicians nor the police can deal with outlaws like these who hide the banner of Islam. Another way is perhaps to give them all a one way ticket to the middle east where they can live their 14th century syariah utopia.

  2. Reza says:

    The law is in infancy and hasnt even been applied properly and you already hopping mad and cry foul. Just because there are hypocrites doesnt mean the shariah law doesnt work. If the humiliation policy towards women is really happen, then that religious police are the one who should be flog (Although I don’t believe it happened, being an Acehnese myself I know how we treat our women, especially in public). Its really encouraging though that the majority of people who are against it are not native Acehnese, God willing, they when they succeed and the will become an example for other Muslim majority provinces in Indonesia. Amin.

  3. Karlira Kanakahuko says:

    Countinue to criticize against Islamization of Indonesia. We hope that all countries in the whole world declare war against Indonesia, if Indonesia is already a Sharia State. Sharia/Syariah really makes Indonesia to become a pure hell! and then we see a real hell in what we discuss from our religion and our faiths.

  4. Nona Tahapary says:

    Indonesia is a not a Muslim state. The founding fathers were explicitly clear when they enacted the state law. This national law should be the ONLY law governs Indonesia. Indonesia has been a secular country since its independence; therefore it should remain as such. Indonesians who want to use Syariah law should move to those Arab countries and leave Indonesia and its existing UUD 45 laws alone!

    God bless Indonesia!

  5. Parvita says:

    Syariah will never be the law in Indonesia. The big Moslem group, Nahdatul Ulama and Muhammadyah, they can’t even have one voice deciding when the Idul Fitri is, how are they ever going to come up with syariah? So don’t worry, with the diversity of this country, even within every religion, I see it will never going to happen. If it ever happens, the name of the country is NOT INDONESIA anymore, because Indonesia was built by a constitution, which protects all religion. Can’t agree more with Ms. Tahapary.

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