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Local residents nix sharia-based bylaws
Hasyim Widhiarto, The Jakarta Post, Jakarta
Residents, politicians, activists — and at least one actor — in Depok and Tangerang urged their cities to reject sharia-based bylaws.
Implementation of such regulations will make the regions prone to inter-religious conflicts, agreed several residents and activists.
The Depok municipal administration must seek approval from both the Muslim majority and local minorities if they want to implement sharia-based bylaws or policies in the city, said Mangaranap Sinaga, the coordinator of the Depok-based Inter-religious Youth Forum.
“All residents, especially minorities, need assurances that such bylaws will guarantee their rights to religious freedom and also give no leeway for [Muslims] hard-liners to outlaw the existence of the country’s beneficial laws,” Mangaranap told The Jakarta Post on Wednesday.
Mangaranap said it was also important for the city’s moderate religious organizations to unite and support each other so that they could take a strong position when discussing sharia with hard-line organizations and local political elites.
“Dialogue alone is not enough, sometimes we also need to be more political,” he said.
The forum, which was launched earlier this month, gathered six religious-based organizations in Depok to discuss and respond to threats to pluralism in the city.
The organizations include Nahdlatul Ulama’s Ansor Youth Movement, Indonesian Christian Youth Force Movement, Catholic Youth, Buddhist Youth Generation, Persada Hindu Dharma and Konghucu Youth Generation.
Actor-cum-politician Derry Dradjat, who wants to run for deputy mayor in Depok’s next election, said there was no urgent need to implement sharia-based bylaws in the city.
“Instead of creating a new conflict, why don’t we just refer to the existing laws,” he said.
Depok, a city on Jakarta’s southern border, is currently governed by Nurmahmudi Ismail, who was supported by the Islamic-based Prosperous Justice Party (PKS) in 2005.
Nurmahmudi has faced strong criticism from many non-Muslim residents who claim that they have been unable to obtain permits to build churches under his administration.
The mayor has been criticized for allowing hard-line organizations, such as the Islam Defenders Front (FPI) to pressure minorities, such as members of the Ahmadiyah sect and the transgender community.
In 2006, the Depok city council planned to deliberate a draft ordinance banning prostitution but has made no progress after several years.
Implementation of sharia-based bylaws started even earlier in neighboring Tangerang,
A number of women have been arrested when returning home from work after authorities began enforcing a 2005 bylaw banning prostitution in the city. Human rights activists have called for the bylaw to be revised.
Immanuel Malirafin, 43, a Catholic living in Kotabumi, said that although he heard of the bylaw, he never learned about it in detail.
“Some of my Muslims neighbors told me that the bylaw imposed a curfew on women, but I never understood why it was implemented,” he said.
Sharia bylaws are only allowed only in Aceh province, as a conditions of its special autonomy following a 2005 international agreement that ended decades of war.
After the introduction of regional autonomy in 1999, bylaws regulating private conduct and morality have sprouted in dozens of regencies and municipalities in the coutnry.