Monday, 14 September 2009

Stoning spreads to Indonesia

Here's a truly shocking piece of news from Indonesia. One of that country's provinces, Aceh, is in the advanced stages of introducing stoning to death as a punishment for adultery. According to Reuters, the law was passed unanimously by the local parliament on Monday and could be operative as early as next month.

Indonesia always used to have a reputation for practising one of the most moderate and pluralistic interpretations of Islam. That such savagery should be put into law there - for the first time in its history - speaks volumes about the state the religion has got itself into in many parts of the world. Doubtless media-friendly imams will be on hand to tell us that such punishments do not represent the true spirit of Islam, and doubtless they are right. Unfortunately there are too many Muslims who seem to disagree, and some of them have got themselves into positions of power.

Aceh has had Sharia law (as part of an "autonomy deal") since 2002, but has only now got round to enforcing the traditional penalties. Other serious crimes, such as consumption of alcohol and homosexuality, are also included in the new legal framework, the "qanun jinayat". However, according to the report,


The harshest punishment in the new law is stoning to death for adultery by a married person, followed by rape, which is punishable by 100-200 strokes of a rattan cane -- in public -- and 100-200 months in jail.


It's nice to know they take rape seriously, at least - if not as seriously as consensual adultery.

It's said that some in the local government might be having second thoughts, but Bustanul Arifin, secretary of Aceh parliament's special committee for drafting the law, is delighted. "We feel that it is time now for people to understand the real meaning of sharia," he said, seeing in the draft law an antidote to the corruption that entered the territory under the influence of "foreign cultures". He also expressed a hope that the next parliament would expand the law to include other punishments such as the chopping off of hands for theft.

I expect that's the sort of thing Tony Blair had in mind the other day, when he opined that "the concept of justice is possibly the single biggest point of unity of all the major faiths".

Incidentally, I wonder if this story will gain the same amount of attention from the world's media as the Malaysian model facing six relatively mild strokes of the cane for drinking a glass of beer. Somehow I doubt it.