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Implications of pornography bill and Islamic law JAKARTA - In the past few months much has been in the local Press about Sharia regulations in regions of Indonesia as well as the frequently cited Pornography Law being deliberated on in the House. These clippings in the press have been anything but flattering of Sharia which to a practicing Muslim is the crux of his daily interactions. Sharia has been labeled oppressive to women and minorities of other faiths, a step backwards for Indonesia, and an inhibitor to the economy.

Those in favor of the regulations believe the opposite as they protect women rights as well as the rights of minorities, moves society forward, and are conducive for an economy not focused merely upon sharp numbers. What does this debate mean for Indonesia? It means that the Indonesian people, particularly the Muslims, have to decide in the near future, what they want for themselves.

Sharia at the regional level, whether in Aceh, Padang, or Tangerang is a smaller indication of the movement in this society. The Pornography law is a larger indication of it. What is the movement? The Indonesian Survey Institute, as reported in the Friday, March 17 issue of The Jakarta Post, highlighted it quite well.

Conservatism is on the rise, or another way of addressing it, a growing orthodoxy amongst Indonesian Muslims. This is the movement on the street, the people, the same type of people that sparked the revolutions throughout Europe which led to what we know today as Western-style democracy. This movement is not isolated to Indonesia as seen throughout the Muslim world, and it's not isolated to politics or terrorist fringe groups.

One can look at how various governments have dealt with this movement across the known world, not just the Muslim one. In Turkey and France the government forbade the wearing of the scarf, in Uzbekistan violent action has been taken, in Egypt Islamic parties are banned from participating in elections and the list is long. What has been the reaction? A growing anger and resort to terrorism for some. The tune is the same, just a different time, practicing Muslims want Sharia.

According to the local commentators, Sharia is oppressive to women and upon implementation women would suddenly become second-class citizens and face abuse. I suppose if one's only knowledge about Islamic Sharia are Afghanistan and Saudi Arabia as cited in the March 10 the Post opinion column, titled, Civil liberties under threat then this observation is highly factual.

The reality of it is that if one investigated Islamic law under its founder, Prophet Muhammad in Medina, and its continual use and implementation throughout the Muslim world at different times in history a different picture may form. Women were suddenly able to own land, receive inheritance, become scholars and leaders, control of their finances, ability to work and receive an education, opportunity to become spiritual equals, and ect.

The huge disparity between that golden past and today is a sad result of deterioration of what it means to live by faith. Whether it be what Benny YP Siahaan labels in his article to the March 2, at the Post as "Christianophobia" across the continent of Europe in regards the Christian values on heterosexuality versus homosexuality or across the Middle East where return to pre-Islamic cultural values have manifested themselves in various forms, the problem of faith and practice is international.

Given this present-day scenario and Indonesia's regional Sharia bylaws and the Pornography law, what is to prevent Indonesia from following this same course or direction? Firstly and lastly the people have to improve individual conduct and that means exactly what T. Sutanto in his article to the Post on March 17 was trying to allude to. If one has inward strength against the temptation of external sin, then external sin will in all likelihood disappear or become isolated.

This means for Indonesian men, not women, to turn off the TV when women are dancing around half naked, not to "chase" women wearing revealing clothing, improve one's own standard of dress and ect. This doesn't exclude women from the equation, as Islam recognizes personal responsibility, but women should also encourage their male counterparts by showing them that a woman is more than a pair of legs.

As most of the criticisms of Sharia law focus upon its relation with women, I would challenge those same individuals to look at Western, or non-Muslim societies. How are their relations with their women? How about America? A place where women on average report about 500,000 rapes a year, a number that is staggering even for an open society, where 20 to 30 percent of women that reported to the emergency room did so because of abuse (1995 National Crime Victimization Survey of the U.S. Department of Justice), and where women still make 70 percent of what a man makes for the same job and same education (Institute for Women's Policy Research).

It is no wonder that women are often more spiritual than their male counterparts. In context, whether one is forcing a woman to not wear a scarf or forcing one to wear a scarf the scenario is still the same, exercise of belief through force. This is not Sharia, and a closer understanding of it would lend ear not only to those willing to enforce the regulations but also those so quick to criticize it.

Daniel Hummel

Posted in Culture @ 25 March 2006 by Jeroen · 'Blog' RSS feed · permalink

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