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Aceh’s stoning bylaw draws more criticism from clerics
The Jakarta Post, Jakarta
The debate about whether to review Aceh’s bylaw that allows adulterers to be stoned heated up Tuesday, with religious leaders voicing their objection to the enactment of the law.
General secretary of the Indonesian Conference on Religion and Peace, Johannes Hariyanto, said that the bylaw, which was passed by the Aceh legislative council in September, went against the constitution.
“The bylaw is not based on Indonesia’s constitution, but on a law that originated outside the country.”
Eighty religious leaders, representing religions and beliefs from around the archipelago, attended the conference held in Jakarta from Monday to Tuesday, urging the President to review the bylaw.
The leaders also demanded that other laws and regulations hampering the freedom of religion in the country be reviewed.
Johannes said that although the constitution guaranteed the rights of all citizens to choose and practice their religion or belief, several laws and regulations stipulated otherwise.
He added the country had seen many instances of members of religious sects depending on the mercy of certain individuals to be able to practice their beliefs.
“One noteworthy case is that of the Ahmadiyah. The government does not have the right to decide whether this religion is wrong. The government has no authority on theological matters,” he told The Jakarta Post.
Ahmadiyah is a religious sect the Indonesian Ulema Council (MUI) says is heretical. Members of the sect have been attacked by various Muslim groups. Last year, the government allowed Ahmadiyah members to perform their religious activities but banned them from proselytizing new believers. Their decision was based on the 1965 law on religious blasphemy.
Ari Dwipayana, a political analyst and lecturer at Gadjah Mada University in Yogyakarta, said the blasphemy law was one of the laws the President needed to review.
“The law has become the government’s instrument to determine whether a religion or belief is official, and allows the establishment of bodies or institutions, such as the government’s Coordinating Body for Monitoring Mystical Beliefs in Society, with the authority to dissolve sects,” he said.
Ari said the 2006 law on administration discriminated against religious groups other than those officially endorsed as state religions — Islam, Catholicism, Protestantism, Buddhism, Hinduism and Confucianism.
He added that before the administration law came into effect, followers of unofficial religions had to declare themselves believers of one of the official religions in the religion section of their identity cards.
Johannes also highlighted President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono’s recent speech made at Harvard University in the United States.
“He said Indonesia was the best example of Muslim tolerance, that although it was a Muslim-majority country, we could still live side by side and in peace. There are still Ahmadiyah followers in Mataram, who were pushed aside just because they have a different belief,” he added.
Some 130 Ahamadiyah members are still living in a shelter in Mataram after hard-line Muslims attacked their village in February 2006.