Sharia bylaws ineffective and may trigger conflicts
While sharia bylaws are intended to maintain order in society, their day-to-day implementation is not effective, and in some regions, they frequently trigger social conflict.
Wahid Institute executive director Ahmad Suaedy said that even for Muslims, the bylaws could create problems, because not every Muslim had the same opinion about sharia.
“Take the headscarf policy, for example. Some women don’t mind wearing the veil because they see it as mandatory. But for others, the policy has become a liability,” Ahmad told The Jakarta Post on Friday.
In Ahmad’s opinion, so far the implementation of sharia-inspired bylaws has not been effective, including in Aceh, where the administration has already approved 54 of 59 bylaws slated to be issued by 2012. Aceh has been granted special autonomy under the 1999 Aceh Administration Law.
Ahmad said the Acehnese complied with the bylaws only when the sharia police were around.
“Many of the sharia-inspired contents regulate private and ethical issues. It is difficult to implement them because the people have their own traditions,” he added.
Acehnese are not the only Indonesians who object to the sharia-inspired bylaws.
In 2005, civil servants in East Lombok regency staged protests as a result of the regent’s decision to apply an alms-payment program, which is one of the five pillars of Islam. The money was deducted from their monthly wages.
Ahmad added the sharia-inspired bylaws came into being because many local leaders did not have the necessary or proper knowledge.
“They are only familiar with their own religious issues. So when they are elected into office, their religious teachings become the basis of their policies,” he said.
He acknowledged that currently such bylaws existed in regions where Muslims were a majority, but it was also possible for Christian-dominated regions to implement their own Christianity-based bylaws.
Separately, former Nahdlatul Ulama (NU) chairman Hasyim Muzadi said the implementation of sharia-inspired bylaws could trigger the creation of other religiously-based laws.
Hasyim added using a religious-sounding label in a law could result in resistance from people of other beliefs.
“While we name the ‘bylaws’ sharia bylaws, people in East Nusa Tenggara, for example, can create a Biblical bylaw,” Hasyim said, referring to the predominantly Christian region in eastern Indonesia.
Speaking at an international seminar on sharia, the state and globalization in Yogyakarta on Wednesday, lawyer Todung Mulya Lubis said the adoption of sharia bylaws could be a time bomb for the country.
He questioned the existence of the bylaws, adding that Indonesia had never been an Islamic state and that the drafting processes seemed to curtail public participation and lacked academic analysis.
Religious Affairs Minister Suryadharma Ali played down the suggestion that sharia bylaws had the potential to trigger social conflicts.
The United Development Party (PPP) chairman said that under the regional autonomy system, every local administration had the right to issue any bylaws they thought were suitable for the population in the respective regions.
Indonesian Ulema Council (MUI) chairman Ma’aruf Amin rejected the notion that the sharia bylaws, which are implemented in some regencies and municipalities, are similar to time bombs.
“First of all, there is no such thing as a ‘sharia bylaw’. What we have is a sharia-inspired bylaw — some of its contents are based on sharia.”
According to Ma’aruf, those bylaws refer to religious teachings, which aim to create order in society. “What is wrong with trying to uphold the teachings?” he said.
Ma’aruf criticized Todung’s statement. “People who worry about implementation of the bylaws are making too much of it. They are paranoid.”
He played down the possibility of social conflicts caused by the bylaws, because sharia-inspired contents were applicable to Muslims only.
There are 12 provinces throughout the country that implement sharia bylaws. They are Aceh, West Sumatra, Riau, South Sumatra, Banten, West Java, East Java, South Kalimantan, South Sulawesi, Southeast Sulawesi, Gorontalo and West Nusa Tenggara. (tas/fzm)