Tag Archives: Religion

New Law in Aceh Allows Stoning to Death of Adulters

http://www.google.com/hostednews/afp/article/ALeqM5iK-JIckrgPJ30kN2Erx6IBVBCIcw

I’ll write more about this later, but for now, just want to share. Article from AFP.

Indonesian rights groups condemn new stoning law

By Nurdin Hassan (AFP) – 19 hours ago

BANDA ACEH — Indonesian rights activists condemned as “cruel and degrading” on Tuesday a new Islamic law calling for adulterers to be stoned to death in the country’s staunchly conservative Aceh province.

The law — which also allows punishments of up to 400 lashes for child rape, 100 lashes for homosexual acts and 60 lashes for gambling — was passed unanimously Monday by lawmakers in the region at the northern tip of Sumatra island.

The law replaces elements of Indonesia’s criminal code with sharia, or Islamic law, for Muslims. It allows the death penalty for married people and 100 lashes for unmarried people found guilty in cases of adultery.

“The laws that have been approved in Aceh are cruel and degrading to humanity,” National Commission on Human Rights head Ifdhal Kasim told AFP.

The law undermines the secular basis of Indonesia’s law, Kasim said, adding the rights group was appealing to President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono to review the legislation.

“This will bring Aceh back to the past. Throwing stones is like Aceh in the fourteenth or fifteenth centuries,” Kasim said, adding the law would likely embolden conservatives pushing for sharia on a national level.

The controversial legal change was passed in Aceh just weeks before a new, more moderate provincial assembly — dominated by the Aceh Party of former separatist fighters of the Free Aceh Movement (GAM) — is due to take power.

The administration of Aceh Governor Irwandi Yusuf, himself a former GAM fighter, is opposed to the strict sharia law, but has said it is powerless to stop the law, which will come into effect in 30 days with or without his signature.

“(The law) only deals with petty crimes, adulterers, but it doesn’t deal with (significant crimes such as) corrupt officials,” Human Rights Watch spokesman Andreas Harsono said.

“In our opinion it is against the principle of human rights,” he said.

Human Rights Working Group head Rafendi Djamin said the punishments set out in the law were “humiliating and degrading” and a product of politicking among local leaders.

“They’re more interested in private issues than issues of the wider public interest like corruption and measures to empower people who have been suffering in the wake of conflict,” Djamin said.

Arif Budimanta, a senior official of the opposition Democratic Party of Struggle (PDI-P) of former president Megawati Sukarnoputri, condemned the law — despite local members having supported it in the Aceh assembly.

“We are deeply concerned about this cruel law as it is against our national ideology and values of pluralism,” he said.

Spokesmen for President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono, a liberal ex-general re-elected by a landslide earlier this year, could not immediately be reached for comment.

Ma’ruf Amin, the head of the Indonesian Council of Ulema, Indonesia’s top Islamic body, welcomed the new hardline law.

“The Council supports sharia law in areas where it is allowed, like Aceh, which has special autonomy. It’s not a matter of good or bad.

“For Muslims, sharia law is the best and can be implemented anytime, anywhere. As long as there is agreement from everyone, there’s no problem,” Amin said.

Aceh had previously adopted a milder form of sharia law in 2001 as part of an autonomy package from Jakarta aimed at quelling local separatist sentiment.

The sharia code enforced religious observation and offered lighter punishments — including caning — for gambling, drinking and association between unmarried members of the opposite sex.

Separatists in Aceh had been fighting the Indonesian government since 1976 until a peace deal in 2005 in a conflict that claimed over 15,000 lives.

Nearly 90 percent of Indonesia’s 234 million people are Muslim, but the country also has significant Hindu, Buddhist, Christian and Confucian minorities. Most Muslims practise a moderate form of the religion.

Copyright © 2009 AFP. All rights reserved.

Liam and Oliver get baptised

Liam is pretty much the luckiest kid ever because he has ME to guide him spiritually through life.

Liam looking just about as cute as a little fella can look

Liam looking just about as cute as a little fella can look and his naturally beautiful godmother.

Liam and Oliver getting oiled

Liam and Oliver getting oiled

I will be frank in the admission that it’s been a while since I’ve been to church. I’m pretty sure Jess and Mark were aware of that when they recruited me so I guess they’re OK that I’m on a fast track to hell (after all, they’re in the same lane).

The words of any mass are so drilled into my brain from years of going on Sunday that I immediately turn onto autopilot as soon as I enter a church, but when I wasn’t instinctively thinking ‘is it over yet?’, ‘I’m hungry’ and ‘I need to wee’, I noticed the priest’s attempts to make church relevant for the adults, and a bit entertaining for the kids. I liked this guy and thought he pitched his explanations of the rituals at the right level (I’m guessing less than 10 percent of the people attending the baptism regularly attend mass so he was right to assume that his audience was pretty ignorant). He also found time to talk about the Footy Grand Final and the new animated film Wall-E (it was possible he was sponsored by Pixar).

I realised how out of practice I was at going to church when my response to the priest’s strong comments opposing changes to abortion laws in Victoria was “Gee, that’s a bit bold! Is he allowed to say that?”

After the christening, like all good Catholics we headed straight to the pub. Jess found a great room upstairs at the Grandview Hotel in West Brunswick and it was just right for a group of adults and kids, plenty to drink and plenty of space to run around. AND the jukebox only played Billy Idol’s White Wedding, which was lucky because that was exactly what we wanted to hear.

I got to see plenty of cousins and friends and all of those flamin’ brothers and sisters and neices and nephews. Jess made cake with accompanying cupcakes again. Twice in two days! sen-bloody-sational!

Public service announcement: Why aren’t some people fasting?

It’s very quiet in the mornings at the moment. I guess after waking up at 4am to eat and pray for Ramadan you’re going to try to take a nap before work if you can. So the walk to work is far less crowded and there are delightfully fewer near misses with motorbikes. It also means that the people who are around notice the foreigner and stop for a chat.

About 50m from my house I walked into the first group of people I spoke to (by the end of the 10 minute walk I’d stopped and spoken to four groups). This group was six teenagers (four boys, two girls) all neatly arranged as if posing as “the bad kids” in Westside Story. The boys milled around and the girls were perched facing backwards on motorbike seats.

Conveniently, I incidentally took a photo of these kids (albeit from very far away) when I was taking a photo of the street outside my house.

Kids on my street

Kids on my street

I’m going to write the following exchange in Indonesian (with subtitles) so you can fully appreciate the humour of when the group jumped from Indonesian to English for my benefit.

As I approached the group, the youngest who looked about 10 but was probably 12 or 13 asked me “Miss, you smoking? You smoking?” Well…I not only got to refuse the kid but gave him a spiel about the dangers of smoking. He probably already smokes a pack a day, but the look of shock and bewilderment on his face when I said “Itu tidak sehat (it’s not healthy) etc etc” was enough to make me believe that he actually learnt something from my rant that the millions of dollars worth of cigarette advertising in Indonesia has failed to inform him of. (Not healthy? Really? But the advertisements tell me that smoking will help me play basketball?!)

Then we exchanged the “good morning”s and the “how are you”s and another boy asked me what was in my plastic bag. “Makanan (Food)” I replied (it was biscuits and noodles for lunch).

This was kind of the look on the boy’s face:

But with a little bit of this look as well:

(I’m not taking taking potshots at Bush here…This really is just the best photo of “confused” on google images.)

But to capture the “public service announcement” nature of this exchange, this photo does it best:

Accompanying this look, the boy said “Tapi puasa? (but fasting? as if to ask “but it’s fasting month so why do you have food?”)”

Sarah: Saya tidak puasa (I’m not fasting)

Boy: ??….??….?? (even more bewildered than before)

After a few seconds of stunned silence I said goodbye and kept walking to work. About 20 seconds later I heard, “miss!….MISS!…MISS!!!” So I turned around.

Boy: Miss! MISS NOT MUSLIM!

Sarah: Betul (correct)

Boy: Miss not Muslim…Miss…KRISTEN (Christian)!!

Sarah: Betul (correct) (Let’s have the discussion about why every white person in Indonesia is Christian by default another time…it’s quite interesting)

And as I continued up the road they waved and gave me thumbs up and smiles as if to say, now we understand! You’re Christian! Off you go then you little scamp! You go and eat your breakfast!

Hari Meugang Part III (Jess and Sarah’s Saturday Soiree continues)

So, continuing on from yesterday’s story…after enjoying burgers and fries by the pool, Rijal the superstar becak driver picked us up to take us home. After driving for a while we realised we weren’t heading directly home.

“Where are you taking us Rijal?”

“Jalan jalan sore” (which roughly translates as “afternoon drive/stroll”)

Jess had picked up on the very festive vibe earlier in the day (think of that meat market as a supermarket on Christmas Eve) and by 5pm the whole town was feeling silly. The cat calls to our becak were particularly ridiculous. One old man walked up to us while we were stopped in traffic and said simply “You and me? I love you, do you love me?” wiggling his finger back and forth between us both as if to say “don’t you feel the connection baby?” Best part: he was about 170 years old and didn’t seem to mind that he was declaring his love to two girls simultaneously. Instead of being creepy like these shout outs sometimes are, this day they were a bit cheeky and funny, like “it’s Hari Meugang, to hell with being serious!”

After plowing through traffic in the centre of town we headed towards the suburbs by the sea. Everything was destroyed by the tsunami in this part of town and the roads are brand new (well, they’ve probably been rebuilt three times since the tsunami but at the moment they are brand new), so we hooned around on the wide, sealed roads as the sun when down, ducking in and out of small village streets, onto big thoroughfares with beautiful views of the sea and the mountains and the sunset.

This is how much fun it was:

Jalan jalan sore

Jalan jalan sore

And then…everything fell into place. It was obvious…Jess had to drive the becak.

Jess is a natural. Could be a good second income.

Jess is a natural. Could be a good second income.

Jess was an INCREDIBLE becak driver. All was going well until the brand new road ended.

“Jess!! There’s NO MORE ROAD! STOP!”.

“I DON’T KNOW WHICH ONE IS THE BREAK!”

Fortunately, Jess handled the situation amazingly, like a real becak driver (who hasn’t figured out where the break is yet). Jess slowed down and everything was OK. Rijal resumed control of the becak and we continued on our jalan jalan sore. We went to the edge of town where the water meets the hills and Rijal showed us the entrance to a hike through the hills to a secret beach. We drove along a road built on top of a man-made sea wall that looks like it connects villages that were cut off by flooding to the rest of the town (this is 100% speculation, no facts were used to develop this theory). There is water on either side of the road as you ride along it. We saw monkeys and a lot of cows who were lucky to have survived the day (but probably didn’t survive the next). I don’t have any photos of this, sorry. Trust me when I tell you it was pretty darn nice.

THEN (yes, this day really went forever), we drove out of town to the beach where our friends Enda and Jen were having a joint farewell/birthday party. The party was at Joel’s, an icon for the foreign residents of Banda Aceh. We ate wood-fire pizza (but not a lot because we’d only eaten burgers a few hours ago) and drank beer (hence it’s iconic status for foreigners) and got a little bit creeped out by a guy who befriended us. His name was Tom. Was he friends with Enda or Jen? Yes, I am. He just wanted to make friends, but as Rijal put it “he’s a little bit crazy”.

After delicious chocolate and banana cake was served, it was 10.30pm and Sarah was TUCKERED OUT! I was so ready for bed that I hopped on Rijal’s becak and drove it home. Well…I drove it to the end of the street.

As we drove back into town, Jess and I discussed how we were going to handle the separation (our day had started at 7.30am when I arrived at her house for a hot shower and by now it was 11pm). I bid Jess adieu and Rijal drove me home. I went straight to my room and crawled into bed.

***

Epilogue

Jess and I went back to the hotel last night for the massage and facial we’d planned for Saturday…We went in a little highly strung and came out as two very chiiiilllllled individuals. I wish I had a photo of us as we practically sleep walked out of there. But I was too chilled to think about my camera…

Hari Meugang in Aceh

It was Meugang this weekend, a traditional Acehnese celebration preparing for the beginning of Ramadan. When I asked people what Meugang was all about, I got the same answer again and again. “Meugang is the day you eat meat!” Most people eat more fish and rice than anything else, so people get together with their families to eat meat (mostly beef it seems, which must have additional significance I don’t know about because goat is far more common) to fortify themselves for the following month of fasting.

Jess and I went to a houseblessing on Saturday morning (photos of that shortly) and along the way we stopped in at one of the meat markets to watch some of the Meugang meat-selling madness.

This place is an established meat market usually made up of two or three stands by the side of the road. But in preparation for Meugang there were stalls lining both sides of the road and traffic jams as people stopped their in the narrow road to do some shopping.

The following photos don’t really need further explanation…