Indonesian activists reject Muslim clerics’ anti-gay fatwa

Criticism greeted a harsh proposal from Indonesia’s top Islamic clerical group, which called for the country to enact a law against same-sex intimacy and to impose the death penalty.

The proposal was contained in an edict, or fatwa, from the Indonesian Council of Ulema, which is known as the MUI, from its Indonesian name, Majelis Ulama Indonesia.

The Jakarta Globe reported:

Haris Azhar, the coordinator of the Commission for Missing Persons and Victims of Violence, or Kontras, calls the MUI’s statement regrettable and says the council has long tried to exceed its actual authority.

“Homosexuality isn’t a crime, nor it is a deviant thing. It is merely one’s preference and it’s private,” he said. “Besides, it isn’t the duty of MUI to determine national law. The MUI is supposed to educate Indonesia’s Muslims. Proposing severe punishment [such as death] shows the MUI’s less-than-mature mind-set.”

“It isn’t official,” he emphasized of the fatwa.

But the Jakarta Globe article pointed out dangers of the fatwa, even though it is unofficial:

Radical groups such as the Islamic Defenders Front, or FPI, have been known to justify their frequent violent attacks on the [modern Islamic] Ahmadiyah community by citing an MUI fatwa branding the sect heretical.

By inveighing against the LGBT community with its latest fatwa, the council is helping to propagate hatred of an already beleaguered community, says [an LGBT activist].

“Issuing such a fatwa is the same as promoting hatred and motivating people to carry out violence against others,” he said. “If the MUI dislikes homosexuals, it should express its disapproval through other means, in educated and peaceful ways. It shouldn’t shroud its message with hate and violence.”

Indonesia has no national law against homosexual activity, but two Indonesian provinces do. In the Jakarta Globe account:

In 2004, municipal authorities in Palembang, South Sumatra, issued a regulation clumping all LGBT-related activity under “prostitution” — an umbrella term that also includes sodomy, sexual abuse and pornography. Under the regulation, anyone charged with committing any of these “prostitution” activities faces the prospect of up to six months’ imprisonment and Rp 5 million ($380) in fines.

Meanwhile, in staunchly Islamic Aceh province, the only region in the country allowed to implement a version of shariah, local authorities adopted a shariah-based criminal code last year that stipulates punishment of up to 100 lashes of the cane and 100 months in prison for those convicted of same-sex acts, even if consensual.

The province’s criminal code also makes sodomy and the uniquely Islamic offense of zina, or sexual relations out of wedlock, punishable with up to 100 lashes.

While such bylaws have often been greeted as extremist sideshows, the MUI carries more clout with both conservative and moderate Indonesian Muslims, even if its edicts are not legally binding.

The Indonesian Ulema Council said its fatwa was required due to an increase in reports of deviant behavior and because homosexuality is a serious disease.

The March 4 fatwa issued by the MUI is not legally binding because even though Indonesia is the world’s most populous Muslim country it has never been an Islamic state. But prejudices against the LGBT community are largely formed by Islam, whose followers make up about 90 percent of its 250 million people.

The United Kingdom-based Independent reported:

While Indonesia does not have a reputation for being particularly welcoming of the LGBT community – and same-sex marriage is not permitted — homosexual relations are not prohibited. Most individuals can go about their lives without prejudice. But the Indonesian Ulema Council (MUI) views homosexuality as a sin. …

The propagation of intolerance is seen as particularly dangerous in this instance, given the MUI’s influential position.

by Colin Stewart
Source – Erasing 76 Crimes