Monday, February 07, 2005

Islamic Democracy in Action

The Bush Administration has warned Americans that the incipient democracy for which US soldiers continue to give their lives in Iraq may not exactly resemble western democracies. What then might it look like? Perhaps Indonesia, in whose relatively recent democratic republic various Islamist political parties have been elected to power, can give us a hint. Proposed legislation in Jakarta seeks to elevate Islamic moral codes into secular law.
Under the proposed draft, offenders caught kissing in the open could be jailed for up to 10 years and find as much as 300 million rupiah ($33,000), reports the Jakarta Post.

Unmarried couples living together could be penalized with up to two years in jail and a maximum fine of 30 million rupiah.

It would also give police and officials the power to raid houses of all those they suspected of living together.
Not to worry, however. The law's application will not be automatic, assure Indonesian officials.
Justice ministry official Abdul Gani Abdullah said the law would only apply if others complained.

"Kissing in public is a crime if the people around are not happy and lodge a complaint. But if they think it's alright, then no action will be taken," he told AFP news agency.
"The same goes with cohabitation. If neighbors think the presence of an unmarried couple living together is a nuisance, they can report it to the police."
Does Mr. Abdullah assume there are no busybodies in Indonesia? In every society there exists a large number of people for whom constant complaint provides their only satisfaction in life. Or - taking a more cynical view of his demurrals - does he count on the usual busybody distribution to greatly expand his powers and budget?

Some Indonesians see possible problems with the proposed laws.
Legal expert Andi Hamzah asked: "What about tourists? Will we hunt them down too?"
Not to worry. If the Islamic parties get there way, there probably won't be many tourists arriving to contaminate Indonesia's Islamic paradise.


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