Elderly Christian woman caned in Indonesia for breaking sharia law

Nur Elita, an Acehnese woman, screams during caning as part of her sentence in the courtyard of Baiturrahman mosque in Banda Aceh, Indonesia's Aceh province December 28, 2015.Reuters

A 60-year-old Christian woman was publicly caned in the Banda Aceh province of Indonesia after being found guilty of violating sharia law.

According to a report by Quartz, the woman was found to be in violation of the sharia rule against the selling of alcohol, and was sentenced to public caning.

The woman was whipped using a rattan cane thirty times in front of hundreds of spectators, some of whom yelled at her and took videos.

Sharia regulations applied only to Muslims until bylaws were passed in the country last year, which expanded their coverage to non-Muslims.

Based on the report, she was the first non-Muslim to be subjected to the punishment for breaking sharia law after the bylaw took effect. Prior to the bylaw, the predomintly Muslim populated area of Aceh was the only province in Indonesia to implement sharia law as a means for the government to quell its problems with a separatist insurgency. 

"This is the first case of a non-Muslim being punished under Islamic criminal bylaw," Lili Suparli, a senior official at the Central Aceh prosecutor's office, acknowledged in an interview.

Last year, before the approval of the bylaw, one of the major concerns raised by those opposed to it was how it would affect non-Muslims.

However, officials assured that implementing the bylaw would not have any negative impact on members of other faiths.

"The fact is that Muslims in Aceh do tolerate religious freedom and we can coexist without any problems. We don't want to raise the impression that Islamic law in Aceh infringes on the rights of non-Muslims... It doesn't [force] sharia law on non-Muslims because they are free to observe their own faiths and beliefs," Teungku Faisal Ali, head of the provincial chapter of the influential Muslim organisation Nahdlatul Ulama, said last year in an interview with Benar News.