Friday, July 28, 2017

Shielding Inhumane Punishment From Western Notice

"We will minimalize press coverage and conduct it [caning, whipping] inside prisons. Right now it's in front of the mosque, right after Friday prayers."
"I think the national government is right that we have to do something [to prevent bad international press coverage]."
Vice Governor Nova Iriansyah, Aceh, Indonesia
Another Muslim woman is caned last week in Banda Aceh, Indonesia after she was found guilty of breaking sharia law - pertaining to bans on intimacy between unmarried people
A Muslim woman is caned in Banda Aceh, Indonesia, on October 17, after she was found guilty of breaking sharia law - pertaining to bans on intimacy between unmarried people

Six couples in Aceh province, Indonesia, which practices Islamic Sharia law, were found guilty of not observing the law that unmarried couples must not touch one another, kiss, hug, hold hands, even appear together in public standing in close proximity. On the occasion of this woman's caning she screamed repeatedly expressing the pain she felt at her discipline in a public spectacle of shame and punishment for failing to respect Sharia law.

She was flogged 23 times and each fresh application of the cane caused her physical anguish and psychological trauma. She collapsed on the stage where this took place and was  taken to hospital.

This was a public spectacle. People were invited to come along and witness this woman's shame. One might think it doubtful that anyone cheered on the proceedings. It did represent an opportunity for the leading mullahs to demonstrate to the public that such unforgivable sins will not be tolerated. That there is no compassion to be extended toward those who assault public morality and disregard the dictates of Koranic culture. And because it was a public spectacle it was witnessed by foreigners. Who took photographs and wrote of what they witnessed.

Those stories were widely reported in the Western press. And while in Indonesia it may be perfectly normal for such discipline to take place, its Medieval cruelty is not admired in the West. So it created a sensation of disbelief and disgust among Western readers of reports of Islamic brutality against citizen Muslims in the world's most populous Muslim nation. This is clearly not the kind of public relations coup that Indonesia's leaders appreciate. And so, although the punishment will continue, it will no longer be approved as a public spectacle. That spectacle took place in 2016.

And there was a repeat, for another crime perpetrated by Indonesians against Islam that has come to wider public attention, in 2017. This time it was two Indonesian men whose forbidden sexual encounter with one another aroused the rage of the religious leaders in that most Islamicly conservative province, Aceh. Accused in May of having sex with each other, they were each sentenced to 85 lashes to take place in public. Muslim homosexuals exercise enough caution not to be caught out. Evidently not on this occasion.
BANDA ACEH, Indonesia – Two men in Indonesia’s Aceh province were publicly caned dozens of times Tuesday for consensual gay sex, a punishment that intensifies an anti-gay backlash in the world’s most populous Muslim country and which rights advocates denounced as “medieval torture.” Still from video
Aceh, one of the poorest in the country, is a semiautonomous province located on the island of Sumatra. It had been granted the right to establish Sharia law and imposed a fundamentalist version of Islam's legal code. It also has a new governor who is concerned with the province's economic future. Aceh has some of Indonesia's largest oil reserves and there are concerns that their reputation will suffer because of these public floggings, putting off those who might invest in the province.

On caning days huge crowds gather as convicts are publicly beaten. After the caning of the two young gays, the governor is considering privatizing such events, to aid investment. Not that 'illicit' sex is the only crime for which public whipping is decreed. In Aceh punishment for gambling, drinking alcohol, punishment women who wear tight clothing and men who skip Friday prayers also rank high on the punishment index. Such offences are not to be lightly overlooked. Society must be protected from such perpetrators.


And, in fact, the crowd did react in a manner surprising to civilized minds, by shouting out insults and cheering as the men, aged 20 and 23, were whipped, wincing with obvious pain. Within the throngs of spectators many took delight in filming the event with their cellphones. A team of five robed, hooded enforcers took turns meting out the punishment, relieving one another after every 20 strokes for one of the men and 40 for the second.

"What they have done is like a virus that can harm people's morals. This kind of public punishment is an attempt to stop the spread of the virus to other communities in Aceh", piously commented Sarojini Mutia Irfan, a female university student witnessing the caning, satisfied that it represented a necessary deterrent to unacceptable public behaviour, evidently not believing that what is done in private has little to do with the public.  


But now, a movement is afoot, in the interests of persuading investors that Aceh is not as backward as they may feel, given the mode of criminal punishment imposed upon those who fall afoul of Islamic custom and its social contract. At the same time, in neighbouring Malaysia, another Muslim nation, a law was passed permitting the holding of public canings for the edification and entertainment of Malaysian faithful. This will alter the current practise of caning conducted in private, often in prison yards, away from crowds.


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