Euro MPs Issue Warning over Syariah Law

JAKARTA ~ Indonesia’s international relations could be hit if it adopts Islamic Syariah law – which is being introduced in one province – a European Parliament delegation has said.

Hartmut Nassauer, head of the delegation of eight MEPs, said non-governmental organizations had raised concerns about Syariah law, which is being gradually introduced in Aceh province.

“Of course it’s a matter for the Indonesian people and society to decide on the law they have,” Nassauer said at the end of the five-day visit by the group, which is in charge of links with Southeast Asia.

“What I would like to say is such a development has an impact on relations to other countries. It could burden the situation if there is a kind of religious law having consequences for state partnerships,” he said.

Nassauer said a religious legal system must not influence the state legal code.

“According to our conception of most fundamental human rights, the liberty of … faith is one of the most important ones. It includes the right to live without faith and consequently you do not have to obey a faith which is not yours,” he said.

Nassauer said restrictions on women introduced under Syariah were “not acceptable.”

“From our point of view, it’s not acceptable to forbid women to leave the house alone after eight o’clock in the evening,” he said, citing one example delegates heard about.

However, the German MEP noted that Indonesia’s main Muslim organization had expressed opposition to the introduction of Syariah.

“It was good to hear from representatives from Nahdlatul Ulama, for example, that this important and largest Muslim organization, not only of Indonesia but of the world, is obviously against the implementing of Syariah law,” he said.

The central government allowed Aceh to implement Islamic law in 2001 as part of limited self-rule to pacify demands for independence.

Aceh has so far only partially implemented Syariah, enforcing Muslim dress codes and obligations such as daily five-time prayers, fasting and alms-giving.

More than 90 percent of Indonesia’s 220 million people are Muslim but most follow a moderate version of Islam.

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