by Jennie S. Bev
Bylaws in Aceh for stoning adulterers to death and 100 lashes for premarital sex should be nullified as they are not merely against human rights and unconstitutional, but perpetuate the myth of inequality and overindulge in the over-virtuousness of Islam and sharia law.
Failure to nullify them will have grave consequences in which not only will pluralism be threatened but it will engender an age of distrust and Indonesia will be thrust back into the Dark Ages.
The first argument comes from the 1948 Universal Declaration of Human Rights and the 1990 Cairo Declaration on Human Rights in Islam, in which all human beings have the right to a dignified life.
The second argument comes from Indonesia’s national laws, which include ratifications of international human rights conventions, overriding the special autonomy region’s bylaws.
The third argument comes from questioning the definition of “sharia” laws themselves: which ones are Islamic and which ones are customary. This article tries to reach an understanding of the third argument.
Fiqh or jurisprudence in Islam is one of the most complicated studies of all Islamic-related schools. It is also the most powerful, because those who understand them are likely to be listened to seriously by society.
In the past, sharia had been seen as a set of rules, in which was the evolution of legal reasoning, this paradigm is now acknowledged as a set of social practices and a set of ever-evolving interpretive processes.
This, however, hasn’t been uniformly understood, which has caused there to be various interpretations, particularly among the less academic clerics who interpret sharia as “written in stone because God tells us so.”
Certain principles, however, are indeed absolute, such as God as the source of utmost mercy and compassion. This principle alone contradicts the so-called “sharia law” implementation, such as mutilating limbs, lashing, and stoning to death.
That grave wrongdoings require draconian consequences may sound fair, but it comes with a huge logical fallacy: God has been belittled as a human being and God’s reasoning has been reduced to a petty human being’s.
An example of feudal practice that has been considered as “Islamic” is the tradition of wan’ni in Pakistan, in which female family members of a murderer are given away to the victim’s family as a form of restitution.
Islamic scholars have agreed that the practice of wan’ni is indeed unIslamic as it shifted the notion of “sin” to another individual, which is both unjust and unfair regardless of one’s gender.
The socialization of wan’ni as a form of gender-related human rights violation and not as a part of Islamic law has been attributed to Rubina Bhatti, who was nominated for the 2005 Nobel Peace Prize.
Indonesia recognizes national law, adat law, and Islamic law, and such acknowledgement creates an environment of possible conflicts of laws, if both the enactment and the implementation are not clearly regulated.
At this point, many legal scholars argue that Aceh is a special autonomy region, which provides it with legal privileges.
While this argument makes some sense, we must see Indonesia as a whole picture and the puzzles of legal implications and social consequences at various levels must be taken into account.
So far, the tendency has been the implementation of draconian measures, which include stoning to death and mutilating of limbs, attributed to so-called “Islamic laws.”
Whether this assumption is valid or not requires an in-depth investigation of historical, social, customary, and legal developments.
Here, Islam is more than a religion; it is a framework upon which elements of an evolving civilization are based. And as a framework, its elements keep evolving as well. Nothing is written in stone, only God is ever-present and the most compassionate.
Thus, adopting draconian inhumane measures for wrongdoings in various communities, such as stoning to death, giving away female family members as a restitution of murder, lashing, and mutilating limbs must not be transplanted to Indonesia simply because they have been labeled “sharia” by a few past clerics who resided in various Arab countries.
It is, indeed, a grave fallacy to reduce the human reasoning capacity to such an oversimplification and reversed dynamic.
While an Islamic society is based on virtue, which is very noble, it is also expected that critical thinking is given a strong emphasis.
After all, modernity is not the antonym of nobility and decency, so one does not contradict the other. Modernity occupies specific parts of the temporal domain while decency occupies timelessness.
Abid Ullah Jan, a thinker of the Independent Center for Strategic Studies and Analyses in Canada said that both Muslims and non-Muslims are engaged in jihad (struggle), qital (war), and ijtihad (struggle to reach right conclusion), but any pseudo-Islamic state that indulges in fiqh alone is likely to progress to be as the corrupt Taliban.
We certainly do not want Aceh to taint pluralistic Indonesia, the beacon of the world’s moderate Muslims.
The Jakarta Post, November 3, 2009