Indonesia/Aceh: Three Lashes for Selling Cooked Rice During Ramadan

Jakarta Globe

Jantho, Aceh.With heads bowed, two young women walked toward a wooden stage outside Al Munawwarah Mosque in Jantho, Aceh Besar. Friday prayers had just ended, and hundreds of residents surrounded the platform, keeping a respectful distance but keen to watch. 

The eyes of Murni binti Amris, 27, and Rukiah binti Abdullah, 22, began to water. They feared the worst when officers of the Shariah Police dragged them to the center of the stage. The women had dared to sell cooked rice in the daytime during Ramadan, violating the 2002 Islamic bylaw in Aceh. With a quivering voice, Murni said: “Wait, sir.” She wanted to correct her sitting position. However, the man standing over her brandishing a rattan cane took no heed, lashing her three times across the back. 

When it was Rukiah’s turn, she was whipped twice. She did not make a sound, although her face was wet with tears. A shout was heard from the crowd: “Add to it. Let her feel it.” 

A top official of the Shariah Police, Marzuki Abdullah, told the Jakarta Globe the women had been arrested on Aug. 23 for violating the regulation that stipulates: “Whosoever prepares facilities for Muslims that do not fulfill religious standards during the fasting month of Ramadan faces either a year in jail, a fine of Rp 3 million ($340) or being caned in front of an audience for a maximum of six times.” 

“They were selling cooked rice in the daytime during Ramadan. They were arrested by Shariah officers at a small stall in the Baitussalam district,” Marzuki said. 

The ruling was issued by the Jantho Shariah Court on Thursday. “Both women were of good character and did not make a fuss in court,” Marzuki said. 

“They did not have a lawyer. We told them they could be represented by a lawyer but they refused,” he said. 

Next it was the turn of Fakhruddin bin Teuku Harun, who was caned eight times for gambling. Marzuki said Fakhruddin also chose not to be represented by a lawyer in court. 

Speaking outside the mosque before the canings, Marzuki said Acehnese authorities had had the right to cane those who broke Shariah law since 2005. 

“The Wilayatul Hisbah [Shariah Police] were handed the right in order to uphold Shariah in Aceh,” Marzuki said. 

When asked if this law applied to legislators and councilors, Marzuki said it did, but if they had not been caned it was because they had appealed their sentences.