The Aceh Provincial Government in Indonesia decided to remove flogging from public view and to do it in more closed spaces. Under the new rules, only journalists and adults can witness the said punishment inside private prisons. The move is drawing some considerable Islamist resistance, however, including from the public and the local parliament.
Aceh’s governor Irwandi Yusuf signed a new rule on April 12 banning the whipping punishment of criminals in public. The new law moves caning inside prisons and also prohibits people from recording the procedure. This means the old and usual practice of crowds filming the spectacle on their smartphones will no longer be possible. Only journalists and adults will be allowed to witness the carrying out of the said punishment inside private prisons.
The government defends the new move as officials argued that public canings caused a slowdown in much-needed outside investment.
The members of the Islamic Defender Front, however, aired their strong protests against the said change. The group even staged a public protest in front of the governor’s office over the weekend. The protest was marred by violence. Several people were arrested by the police.
Muslim at-Tahiry, the local head of the Islamic Defender Front said he opposed the change as they think it is against Islamic law. He said caning has always been intended for the public as “believers” to witness.
He added: “That is to be a lesson for the perpetrators and the people who watch it. So they really should be embarrassed. This works as a deterrent.”
The local parliament is also rejecting the new law and went as far as filing a complaint to the Supreme Court in Jakarta. MP Azhari Cage said: “A special session of Aceh’s parliament has officially decided that parliament will take legal action against the governor’s decision and we will ask that the regulation be revoked.”
Fuad Mardhatillan, a lecturer from the Ar Raniry State Islamic University of Banda Aceh, refuted the claims of other Islamists that stopping public caning is a violation of Islamic criminal laws, known as Qanun Jinayat.
Mardhatillan said: ”The Qanun does require whipping in public place, but by moving to the more closed place like in prison, in my opinion, does not limit public access.” He also added: “The reason is for children to not see the flogging, which I think is good from psychology point of view.
Governor Yusuf insists that the move is not meant to reduce the punishment, but only to ensure that the children do not witness the flogging. He also admitted that the practice has always invited international criticisms.