BANDA ACEH: Two Indonesian Christians were publicly flogged in the conservative province of Aceh on Tuesday for playing a children’s entertainment game seen as violating shariah law as hundreds of onlookers ridiculed them and took pictures.
The pair were among five people, including a couple whipped 24 times each for showing affection in public, who were lashed with a rattan stick.
Aceh is the only province in the world’s most populous Muslim-majority country that imposes shariah law and people can be flogged for a range of offences ranging from gambling to drinking alcohol to having same-sex intercourse or engaging in extramarital sex.
On Tuesday, Dahlan Silitonga, 61, and Tjia Nyuk Hwa, 45, were flogged six and seven times respectively after being arrested for playing a long-standing game at a children’s entertainment complex that lets users exchange coins for prizes or vouchers, including cash.
The pair were accused of gambling, while another man, Ridwan M R, received 19 lashes for being involved in the game.
“This is to create a deterrent effect, in order for people not to repeat violations of Islamic shariah law,” Banda Aceh’s mayor Aminullah Usman said.
“We purposely do it in front of the public… so it won’t happen again.”
About 300 spectators, including some two dozen tourists from neighbouring Malaysia, jeered the gambling-accused trio as they were whipped on a makeshift stage outside a mosque.
“You are old, show remorse,” the crowd screamed.
Non-Muslim Tjia Nyuk Hwa tried to hide her face in a specially provided white cloak with head-covering hijab.
The two Christians are among just a handful of non-Muslims to be punished under Aceh’s strict religious law since it was adopted in 2001 as part of a deal with the central government to end a long-running insurgency.
In January, an Indonesian Christian was flogged for selling alcohol in the northern Sumatran province, which made headlines recently after local police publicly humiliated a group of transgender women.
About 98% of Aceh’s five million residents are Muslims subject to religious law.
Non-Muslims who have committed an offence that violates both national and religious laws can choose to be prosecuted under either system.
Christians and other non-Muslims sometimes choose a flogging to avoid a lengthy court process and jail term.