Caning of Christian woman under Sharia law sparks outrage

THE story of a Christian woman being caned in Indonesia - the first time a Sharia law punishment has been meted out to a non-Muslim - has gone viral on Facebook.

The 60-year-old, who was convicted of selling alcohol, was whipped nearly 30 times with a rattan cane, before a crowd of hundreds, in Aceh province on Tuesday.

A couple who had been found guilty of adultery received 100 lashes at the same time.

Aceh is the only province in Indonesia that applies Sharia law, with public canings, often in front of huge crowds, commonplace.

Under Aceh's strict Islamic code, introduced after it was granted special autonomy from Jakarta in 2001, corporal punishment is imposed on adulterers, gays, drinkers and even those who speak to unmarried members of the opposite.

A bylaw that took effect late last year allowed sharia regulations to be applied to non-Muslims in certain situations, an official from the prosecutor's office told the AFP news agency.

He added: "This is the first case of a non-Muslim being punished under Islamic criminal bylaw."

Indonesia is the most populous Muslim-majority country in the world.

Around 90% of Indonesians are Muslim, though most practise a more moderate strand than that found in Aceh.

The story has sparked plenty of debate on Facebook.

"Aceh is the province to which the Christian West sent hundreds of millions in aid after the Tsunami catastrophe,'' Julie Lenarz wrote.

"The truth is that where Islamists rule it doesn't matter what we do - whether we send drones or millions in humanitarian aid - we will always be the enemy.

"It will always be us vs. them because it's not about what we do, it's about who we are and whether or not we are prepared to accept their view of the world."

But Nik Elin Nik Rashid from Malaysia had a different view.

"Before I start bashing the Aceh province for publicly caning the non muslim for selling alcohol, perhaps I should first find out what was the offence this 60 year old non Muslim woman had committed.

"In the report, it says the offence was for "selling alcohol".

"OK. So we know, non Muslims should not be bound by Shariah laws. So why did they "whip her 30 times with a rattan"?

"A simple Google search revealed that Dewan Perwakilan Rakyat Aceh had confirmed that the Islamic Criminal laws covers everyone regardless of their faith, religion and beliefs. Its applicable for everyone in Aceh. Its terriitorial jurisdiction.

"So, its inclusive. Of everyone in Aceh."