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Letters from Tokyo
Aceh in Indonesia Passes Stoning to Death Law
By Lee Jay Walker
Tokyo Correspondent
Flag of Aceh. The Free Aceh Movement (Indonesian: Gerakan Aceh Merdeka: GAM), also known as the Aceh Sumatra National Liberation Front (ASNLF), was a separatist group seeking independence for the Aceh region of Sumatra from Indonesia.

The nation of Indonesia is multi-ethnic and multi-religious but just like Nigeria religious issues and tensions remain. In northern Nigeria many states in the north were allowed to introduce Sharia Islamic law, however, for Christian minorities this was a nightmare because they became threatened by the brutal reality of Islamic Sharia law. Therefore, will Aceh inspire Islamists in other parts of Indonesia in the future and what about being equal in law?

In the past you had a brutal civil war in Aceh between the Free Aceh Movement who wanted either an independent state or real autonomy within Indonesia. However, the tragic events of the tsunami in 2004 altered the internal situation and central forces and the Free Aceh Movement both compromised in order to resolve many long standing issues.

Prior to the tsunami in 2004 the civil war had been ongoing and in 2001 the government of Indonesia allowed a broader role of Islamic Sharia Law in Aceh. However, this was also followed by a fresh Indonesian military offensive in 2003-2004 but events would unfold after the tsunami and a peace deal was struck in 2005 between the Free Aceh Movement and the government of Indonesia.

The region of Aceh is diverse but the vast majority of people follow Islam and this applies to approximately 98% of the population. The other 2% of people in Aceh are Buddhist, Christian, or Hindu. However, in Indonesia the religious issue is complex because despite the majority of people being Muslim you still have sizeable minorities who follow other religions.

Christianity is the second major faith in Indonesia and accounts for 9% to 13% of the entire population. Also, in recent decades this faith is growing and thriving despite bouts of persecution. Therefore, just like in Nigeria, the role of Islamic Sharia law is serious because many minorities fear religious persecution and discrimination.

Many provinces throughout Indonesia have opted to implement aspects of Islamic Sharia law but these infringements have been limited in scope when compared to Aceh. For according to reports in recent days the region of Aceh will allow people to be stoned to death in cases of adultery and other draconian laws based on Sharia will also be implemented.

Therefore, the slippery slope is starting to gain in momentum and this bodes ill for Indonesia just like it does for northern Nigeria. After all, in northern Nigeria you have many tensions between Christians and Muslims and only recently you had more Christian martyrs beheaded by radical Islamists.

Currently in Indonesia it is clear that Christians face pressure and restrictions in Aceh, West Java and South Sulawesi and the role of Islamic Sharia law will only add to this problem. In other parts of Indonesia, for example North Sulawesi and Papua, Christians form a majority while sizeable communities can be found around Lake Toba in North Sumatra, Maluku, and other parts of Indonesia.

In Padang in West Sumatra you are seeing growing infringements on non-Muslims because all females must wear headscarves irrespective if Christian, Muslim, Hindu, or whatever faith or no faith. Also, in some parts of Indonesia radical Islamists are putting pressure on local leaders about preventing new Christian churches to be built or to close down churches.

Indonesian Islam was always very diverse because of past influences and traits of Hinduism and Buddhism can be found throughout a vast part of Indonesia. However, in modern day Indonesia it is clear that radical Islamic networks are trying to impose a more brutal and harsh version of Islam and this bodes ill for Muslims and non-Muslims alike.

Aceh was always different because Islam was firmly established a long time ago and conservative versions are more natural in this part of Indonesia. Yet it is like northern Nigeria, how can non-Muslims feel secure or equal under Sharia Islamic law?

If you have a legal system which is based on equality for all ethnic and religious groups then the threat of control is lifted. However, what will happen in Aceh if a Muslim converts to Christianity, Hinduism, or any other religion? Will this individual be killed like it states in the Koran and the Hadiths?

Also, in the future non-Muslim missionary work may be curtailed while Middle Eastern funding continues to spread a dark shadow over Indonesia. Even more alarming, radical Sunni Islamists will be encouraged and they will increasingly put pressure on minorities by spreading radical Islam and enforcing dhimmitude on all minorities.

The Islamic Defenders Front (FPI) and other similar organizations are determined to Islamize both moderate Islam in Indonesia and society on the whole. They propagate their version of Islam and then persecute minorities like Ahmadiyya Muslims and Christians.

Therefore, in modern day Indonesia the threat of radical Islam is real and the implementation of stoning people to death for adultery is a slippery step and one that is all too common in the history of Islamization.

After all, in Afghanistan you once had Buddhists, Hindus, and Muslims, and many branches of Islam were once more moderate in this nation. Yet in time the fullness of Islam was implemented via the teachings of the Koran, the Hadiths, and the implementation of Islamic Sharia law and the consequences of this was the destruction of Buddhism and Hinduism.

Indonesia is still “a young democracy” and this nation is extremely diverse in terms of ethnicity and religion but in the past pluralism won the day. However, today this pluralism is being threatened on many fronts and the introduction of stoning people to death for adultery in Aceh could further embolden other regions to implement Sharia in full.

Given this, it is essential for all minorities to work together and alongside moderate Muslims in order to preserve a society based on secularism. The “heart” of Indonesia faces many challenges but this issue could tear this nation apart if it gets out of control.

Radical Islamists will also do their best to spread hatred and their hatred is indeed deep. Therefore, the government of Indonesia must do more to tackle this issue and appeasing Islamists is not the way forward because they want to spread the Islamic culture and to enforce a monoculture on the people of Indonesia.



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Lee Jay Walker serves as Tokyo Correspondent of The Seoul Times. He specializes in int'l relations and geopolitics. He is also involved in analyst work and research on business. After finishing BA degree in East European Studies at the University of London, he earned MA degree in Asia Pacific Studies at Nottingham Trent University. Website at http://www.leejaywalker.wordpress.com where work is published.

 

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