Sharia In Action

This couple in Aceh, Sumatra Indonesia have been caned for being caught having pre-marital sex in public. They are described as ‘punks’ and were part of a crackdown on punk groups in this populous Islamic Asian state. So on the surface this looks pretty damning of Sharia Law and what it means as far as we Westerners are concerned. First of all the punishment, caning and then of course the ‘crime’. It is an offence to have sex in public in my country, albeit the punishment is usually a fine, community service or a slap on the wrist. If they were ugly or inept they might get jail time to improve their partner prospects…. I’m joking. It is a joke in bad taste, not an offensive utterance but let’s leave society’s softening for another blog.

So should we get all upset about this? After all, the punished pair live in a place where they know what they do is illegal. We can argue over the legality of caning, sex in public and whether the government has the right to harass people for looking a certain way like punks do, but that isn’t the issue. How do we know if they were in public view? If someone trespassed on their land to sight them it should not be ‘in public’. Yet in my city there are cases where people have been seen naked or engaging in sex in the privacy of their own homes but because of a curtain malfunction someone outside on the street or in a neighbouring house saw them. Consequently it was indecent exposure or what have you. Surely this is not the same as someone purposely engaging in a public demonstration of nakedness or sex with the aim of shocking and offending?

Caning is barbaric to some but I was caned at school in the 1970s. What is the difference? Because we no longer engage in a certain behaviour everyone who still does is wrong? Yet were we wrong when we did it? At the time no, now yes you say? But you can’t apply current standards to long past practices and attitudes. We never want another Hiroshima or Nagasaki but at the time it was a very different zeitgeist, especially among those in Shanghai, Hong Kong, Singapore, Manila, Nanking and wherever else the Japanese Emperor had sent his minions. Hirohito was happy to let hundreds of thousands burn in the Tokyo fire raids of April 1945 with no intention to give up his privileged position.

Let’s think about the report and the photo for a moment and ask yourself if you are being manipulated by the media. Note the angle of the photo, taken from below to emphasise the power and authority of the taller figure and the submission of the lower one. Note it is a male figure caning a female, yet her partner was also caned so why not show him copping it? Note the ‘theater’ of the costume worn by the caner. Is this report aimed at passing on news of an event or is it designed to create a reaction among the readers?

I don’t want Sharia Law in Australia and I would never willingly live in a country that had it. I accept these people probably have little choice but to remain in Aceh although I am sure they are free to move around within Indonesia and most of the country is not extreme when it comes to Islam. We also have to accept that our way isn’t the only way. There are plenty of problems in our own culture and community without worrying about people in other cultures and how they are suffering; at least in the context of it being our job to save them. The world is, always has been and always will be a pretty cruel place. You can soften it in your own mind with your own beliefs but that doesn’t change someone else’s reality. Sometimes you have to simply accept life isn’t as fair as you might want it to be and move on. Charity begins at home so above all else, ensure you are if not a part of the solution, at least you are not a part of the problem. And get a room.

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