Indonesian Christians Publicly Caned for Violating Sharia Law

Two Indonesian Christians were publicly caned last week after violating the country’s increasing adoption of Sharia Law.

The two men, Dahlan Silitonga, 61 and Tjia Nyuk Hwa, 45, received six and seven beatings with a rattan stick from a man wearing a robe and headscarf.

Around 300 spectators, including groups of tourists from Malaysia, reportedly took photos as the whipping took place outside a mosque in the provincial capital of Banda Aceh, where around 98 percent of the population is Muslim and practices Sharia Law.

“You are old, show remorse,” the crowd screamed.

Local police said that the two men were accused of gambling after they were caught playing a game at a children’s entertainment complex that involved the exchange of coins for cash prizes, according to The Jakarta Post. 

“This is to create a deterrent effect, in order for people not to repeat violations of Islamic sharia law,” said Banda Aceh’s mayor, Aminullah Usman. “We purposely do it in front of the public … so it won’t happen again.”

Christians and other minorities caught breaking religious laws in Banda Aceh often choose to subject themselves to public whipping as opposed to the prospect of a prolonged trial and a possible jail sentence.

Indonesia, which has the world’s largest Islamic population, is now undergoing an increasingly authoritarian crackdown on activities that conflict with Sharia law, as the country’s hardline Muslims continue to pressure the government into Sharia-related governance.

In January, a Christian man received 36 lashes for selling alcohol, while Indonesian police also humiliated a group of transgender women through a “re-education” process that involved them dressing in men’s clothes and screaming in a deep voice.

Last May, the Christian governor of Jakarta was Basuki “Ahok” Tjahaja Purnama was jailed for two years for blaspheming against the Quran, leading to widespread protests against the government.

The shift has seen authorities crack down on many fundamental liberties. The government recently passed a law that criminalizes same-sex relations as well as consensual sex outside marriage. Hardline Islamist parties have also proposed a total ban on alcohol, although such legislation remains unlikely to be passed into law.

Tensions over Islamic fundamentalism have also risen in the neighboring country of Malaysia as the government shifts towards more theocratic positions. Authorities there last year re-introducing caning as a punishment for sharia-related crimes.

Over the past year, Malaysian authorities have also banned books promoting moderate interpretations of Islam, censored “inappropriate” popular film and music, and imposed blasphemy laws on society as a whole.

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