07/05/2013, 00.00
INDONESIA
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Islamisation gets a boost in Jakarta, as Supreme Court suspends the sale of alcoholic beverages

by Mathias Hariyadi
The leaders of the Islamic Defender Front has been fighting for a ban on alcohol, especially during Ramadan. With its ruling, the Supreme Court suspends a 1997 presidential decree that authorised the sale of alcohol, stressing that "it is not apt" to maintain order. Fundamentalists are overjoyed. For them, "rapes and adultery are alcohol-related."

Jakarta (AsiaNews) - Indonesia has taken another step towards Islamisation following a Supreme Court decision to suspend a presidential decree of 1997 authorising the sale of alcoholic beverages in the country. Local authorities can now ban alcoholic beverages like wine and beer as well as soft drinks on their territory. The leaders of the Islamic Defenders Front (FPI), which has pushed the case, are rejoicing. For them, sexual violence and adultery are due to "alcoholic beverages."

For years, the FPI has laid down the law in various parts of the archipelago, imposing rules and regulations inspired by sharia, or Islamic law, to govern conduct and impose prohibitions, including on the consumption of alcoholic beverages.

In particular, restrictions on behaviour tend to intensify on the eve of Ramadan, the holy month of fasting and prayer for Muslims. In the past, several members of the group raided and attacked shops, kiosks, and market stalls that sold alcoholic beverages during Ramadan.

Yesterday, the Indonesian Supreme Court suspended Presidential Decree No. 3/1997, which regulates and authorises the sale of alcoholic beverages. Chief Justice Ridwan Mansyur agreed with the FPI's claim that the decree does not favour upholding "law and order".

Now, local governments are free to ban the sale of alcohol, something that has already happened in 22 regencies and municipalities, like Depok and Indramayu in West Java.

After years of struggle and legal battles, Islamists enthusiastically welcomed the ruling. "Alcoholic drinks are closely linked to episodes of adultery," said Habib Muhammad bin Toha Assegaff, FPI chief in Tangerang.

Although Indonesia is the most populous Muslim nation in the world, its constitution recognises basic personal liberties, like religious freedom. However, in recent years, the country has become the scene of growing violence and abuse against minorities, including Christians as well as Ahmadi Muslims and other groups.

Islamic law is enforced in only one province, Aceh, but pressures are mounting in many others to do the same.

Already in some places, women are banned from riding motorbikes sideways or wearing jeans or short skirts. In some places, a special morality police has been set up, tasked with finding and punishing violators and enforcing such radical and extreme measures.

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