New Court Head Slams Sharia Bylaws ..
Abdul Khalik, The Jakarta Post, Jakarta.
Less than 24 hours after being sworn in as the new head of the Constitutional Court, Moh. Mahfud M.D. on Friday slammed regional administrations for enacting sharia-inspired bylaws.
The enforcement of sharia-based ordinances threatens national integrity and runs counter to the state ideology (Pancasila) principles of social justice, since they discriminate against minority groups, he said.
“Sharia bylaws are not constitutionally or legally correct because, territorially and ideologically, they threaten our national integrity,” Mahfud told top military officers attending a training program on the amended Constitution and human rights.
On Tuesday, Indonesian Military chief Gen. Djoko Santoso, who opened the Friday training program, warned against attempts to establish an Islamic state or alter state ideology.
Such activities are categorized as “acts of treason”, the four-star Army general said.
Mahfud, who served as defense minister under the Abdurrahman “Gus Dur’ Wahid administration, said local ordinances should not be enacted simply to cater to a region’s religious demographic.
“This means Bali can pass a Hindu bylaw, or North Sulawesi can have a Christian ordinance. If each area fights for a religious-based ordinance, then we face a national integration problem,” he said.
Mahfud said in addition to threatening national integrity, sharia-based ordinances also violated all basic principles used as a yardstick to determine whether a law was constitutional.
Under these principles, a law or regulation must serve to strengthen democracy and social justice, as well as promote religious tolerance in a civilized way, he said.
He added the implementation of sharia would discriminate against the weak and minority groups, leaving them out of the national system and without protection.
Dozens of regions have enacted sharia bylaws despite warnings the ordinances could deprive women and non-Muslims of their civil rights.
These bylaws include requiring Koran literacy for students and brides, enforcing Islamic dress code on Muslim women and skewed anti-prostitution regulations that punish only women and not men.
Critics say many of the ordinances were drafted by unqualified people, with no transparency or public participation, and aimed solely at wooing Muslim voters.
The government has pledged to review 37 sharia-based ordinances in force in several regions across the country which have been dubbed discriminatory and in violation of higher existing laws.
Human rights activists were quick to praise Mahfud’s bold statement, saying sharia bylaws violated human rights principles.
“It’s a bold and brave statement from the new Constitutional Court chief. We should support him,” said Refendi Djamin of the Human Rights Working Group.
Senior Golkar Party lawmaker Theo Sambuaga echoed Mahfud’s views, saying such ordinances brought about “disintegrative affects” on the pluralistic nation.
They criticized politicians for endorsing these bylaws in a bid to win support from Muslim voters in local elections.
Several major parties that openly back sharia bylaws include the United Development Party (PPP), the Prosperous Justice Party (PKS) and the Crescent Star Party (PBB).
Enactment of the bylaws has received support from several Golkar politicians, including the incumbent Tangerang mayor, who promote them for their own political gains.