Wednesday, March 31, 2004

Byline dan Tagline

Oleh Andreas Harsono


Ceritanya, 15 Desember lalu Bill Kovach, salah satu penulis buku Sembilan Elemen Jurnalisme dan seorang wartawan terhormat di Amerika, datang ke kantor harian Kompas. Kovach menemui Jakob Oetama dan Suryopratomo, masing-masing pemimpin umum dan pemimpin redaksi Kompas, di ruang kerja Oetama untuk diskusi selama satu jam, lantas Kovach menemui sekelompok wartawan Kompas untuk berdiskusi di sebuah ruang rapat. Ada sekitar 15 wartawan Kompas ikut di sana.

Diskusinya cukup menarik. Saya kebetulan ikut mengantar sehingga bisa mendengarkannya. Kovach sempat bertanya kepada para wartawan Kompas, "Mengapa suratkabar Anda tak memakai byline? Mengapa di halaman satu tak terlihat byline?"

Kalau ingatan saya tidak keliru, Bambang Wisudo, salah satu wartawan yang hadir, mengatakan kalau Kompas menggunakan byline bakal kelihatan kalau tulisan wartawan-wartawannya masih belum bagus. Tak semua wartawan bisa mendapatkan byline. Malu kalau pakai byline.

Kovach balik mengatakan bukankah itu esensi byline? Artinya, biarkan pembaca tahu mana wartawan yang bisa menulis dengan baik dan mana yang tidak baik. Bukankah itu bagian dari "accountability" Kompas?

Jadi kalau Kompas memakai byline, orang bakal tahu siapa orang yang menulis laporan yang baik atau yang buruk. Bukan sebaliknya, menaruh semua tanggungjawab kepenulisan itu kepada institusi Kompas.

Wisudo bilang ini sudah tradisi Kompas. Ia mengatakan tak tahu jawaban pastinya. Wisudo mengatakan seharusnya Kovach tanya kepada "Pak Jakob."

Kovach mengangguk-angguk. Sayang, janji bertemu kedua kalinya dengan Oetama, karena kesibukan masing-masing, tak terlaksana sehingga pertanyaan itu pun tak bisa dilanjutkan Kovach kepada Oetama. Namun Kovach sempat melontarkan isu ini sekali lagi keesokan harinya, ketika ia muncul dalam acara Metro TV bersama Jason Tedjasukmana. Kovach mengatakan suratkabar Indonesia kebanyakan tak memakai byline dan ini menurutnya sebuah kekurangan.

Dalam bahasa Inggris, byline berasal dari kata "by" (oleh) dan "line" (baris) yang merujuk kepada sebuah baris dekat judul cerita dimana terdapat nama orang yang menulis cerita itu. Menurut kamus Merriam-Webster's Collegiate Dictionary, kata ini masuk ke dalam perbendaharaan bahasa Inggris, artinya terekam pertama kalinya dalam perbendaharaan bahasa Inggris pada 1938.

Kovach mengatakan pada sebuah diskusi lain bahwa byline dipakai pertama kali pada 1850-an oleh Charles S. Taylor, seorang jendral yang lantas jadi "publisher" harian The Boston Globe, sesudah perang saudara Amerika. Taylor sering jengkel karena selama perang ada saja wartawan yang menulis dengan judul, "Berita Penting Jika Terbukti Benar." Ia memutuskan menaruh nama para wartawannya pada berita-berita yang diterbitkan The Boston Globe.

Pemakaian byline ternyata membuat wartawan-wartawan The Boston Globe lebih berhati-hati dengan laporan-laporan mereka. Ketika itu, sama dengan suratkabar-suratkabar Indonesia hari ini, media Amerika tak memakai byline. Mereka hanya menaruh inisial si wartawan di ekor laporan. Namun inovasi Taylor ini perlahan-lahan ditiru oleh suratkabar lain di Amerika Serikat.

Prosesnya tidak cepat. Butuh waktu lama untuk menyakinkan pada redaktur bahwa byline adalah masalah "accountability." Harian The New York Times baru mulai menerapkan byline pada laporan mereka, sebagai isu accountability, pada 1960-an.

Banyak redaktur hanya memberikan byline bila sebuah laporan dianggap punya kualitas bagus. Kalau biasa-biasa saja, tak diberi byline, cukup inisial di ekor karangan --yang sebenarnya menurut sejarah, lebih untuk fungsi administrasi internal.

Byline dianggap sebagai "reward" (hadiah) bukan "accountability" (pertanggungjawaban). Namun pemakaian byline untuk kolom opini lebih cepat diterima karena si suratkabar berpendapat isi opini tak harus mencerminkan opini institusi suratkabar.

Tapi hari ini, kalau Anda membaca The New York Times, The Washington Post, Wall Street Journal, atau suratkabar apapun di Amerika Serikat, byline sudah jadi praktek biasa. Semua laporan berita diberi nama wartawannya. Banyak majalah juga memberikan nama penulis mereka di kulit muka. Saya kebetulan pernah bekerja untuk harian The West Australian (Perth), The Nation (Bangkok) dan The Star (Kuala Lumpur). Di tiga harian ini byline biasa dipakai. Semua berita, kecuali berita dua kolom yang relatif pendek serta beberapa perkecualian lain, diberi byline.

Di Jakarta, kebanyakan suratkabar tak memakai byline. Di Jakarta, accountability wartawan disembunyikan di balik "tanggungjawab" institusi. Padahal dua hal ini bisa dibedakan. Kalau seorang wartawan diberi byline, maka ia akan lebih bertanggungjawab terhadap isi laporannya karena publik akan tahu siapa wartawan yang bekerja secara relatif konsisten menghasilkan berita-berita yang bermutu. Juga sebaliknya, publik akan tahu wartawan mana yang pernah bikin salah.

Harian The Jakarta Post mungkin termasuk suratkabar pertama di Indonesia yang memakai byline. Menurut Endy Bayuni, wakil pemimpin redaksi The Jakarta Post, kebijakan ini dipakai sejak 1 Oktober 2001 ketika disain harian ini diubah --antara lain memakai warna merah pada logo mereka.

Endy mengatakan pada saya, hasilnya memang wartawan The Jakarta Post dipaksa menulis lebih baik karena kalau ada kesalahan atau ada yang melenceng, nama mereka bisa segera diketahui publik. Namun, hasilnya positif karena wartawan juga bisa membangun reputasi mereka.

Praktek byline juga dipakai dalam laporan ramai-ramai. Cuma dalam laporan beginian, lazimnya digunakan dalam sistem kerja majalah berita, atau juga suratkabar, harus dibedakan antara byline dan tagline.

Tagline adalah baris dimana nama para kontributor sebuah laporan diletakkan. Byline untuk penulis laporan. Sedang wartawan-wartawan lain yang memberikan bahan atau kontribusi untuk laporan itu dimasukkan dalam tagline. Ini penting dibedakan karena si penulis sering hanya memakai satu alinea saja dari si kontributor. Dan seringkali si kontributor yang jadi sasaran kekesalan orang kalau laporan mereka dianggap tak memuaskan. Padahal kontributor cuma setor laporan. Kebanyakan majalah Jakarta, misalnya Tempo dan Gatra, menggunakan tagline tapi tanpa byline.

Sekarang mari kita perhatikan. Suratkabar dan majalah apa saja di Indonesia ini yang belum membawa prinsip accountability ke ruang redaksi mereka? Kalau Anda bekerja di media, tidakkah Anda tertarik untuk membawa isu ini ke rapat redaksi? Atau kalau Anda seorang pembaca, tidakkah Anda tertarik untuk bertanya kepada redaktur suratkabar langganan Anda, "Eh kenapa ya kita tak memakai byline?"

Sunday, March 28, 2004

Concerns over Media Interference Ahead of Elections

JAKARTA, 28 March 2004 (Radio Australia/Pacific Media Watch): As Indonesians prepare for general elections next month, there are allegations that as election fever heats up, political parties have resorted to taking over the media to control it.

Presenter/Interviewer: Adelaine Ng

Speakers: Andreas Harsono, Chairman of the PANTAU Foundation; Dr Andi Mallarangeng, founder of the Unity, Democracy and Nationhood Party (PPDK)

NG: The freedom to publish or broadcast news and information without political influence was supposed to be a celebrated new liberty for Indonesia at the end of Suharto's rule.

And although the media has more independance than many of its regional neighbours, there are concerns the elections could harm this reputation as the countdown to the polls begin.

There are 24 parties vying for votes, and the fight will be furious.

Andreas Harsono is chairman of the PANTAU Foundation, which monitors the media and trains journalists in Indonesia. He says recent moves by political parties to place their people in the media are cause for concern.

HARSONO: 90 per cent of Indonesian voters get their political news from TV. Meaning that controlling a TV station is very strategic in getting to the voters. RCTI, the largest TV station, commercially the most successful in the country, the news director was replaced with a new guy named Derek Mananga. Derek was reportedly placed there on the demand of the PDI-P party.

NG: One of the byproducts of Indonesia's democracy has been the mushrooming of news outlets all across Indonesia. This, says Harsono, has resulted in a drop in journalism standards.

For example, the practice of using bylines to credit reporters with their stories has largely stopped, and there's often no distinction between editorial writing and advertisements.

Another trend he notes, is a change in the way politicians and business leaders try to influence the media.

HARSONO: They've developed friendships with the editors of those news organisations. These are friendly phone calls, like "Your reporter's doing this, doing that, I'm not happy with that, it's not accurate, it is not proportional, it is not comprehensive, more like social pressure rather than direct business pressure.

NG: Some would say that's more dangerous because it's not so obvious.

HARSONO: Yes it is more dangerous because as journalists you know, we are not to seek friends, but we are not to seek enemies, but these people are using the media to express their versions of the truth.

NG: Harsono himself has declined two offers to get into politics, believing that you can't be a journalist and a politician at the same time.

So, with this scenario, how much fairness can Indonesians expect of their media as political parties step up their campaign?

HARSONO: A big question. According to surveys, yes they are satisfied with media freedom, but at the same time, that the media tend to be more political; there is a decrease fo trust in the media, there are many journalists involved in politics, many journalists also running for a state or national seat.

NG: Dr Andi Mallarangeng, a former political scientist who recently formed the Unity, Democracy and Nationhood Party or PPDK, says while the developments are worrying, smaller parties like his will not be too disadvantaged.

MALLARANGENG: We are lucky that many of the independent journalists in the media, even those controlled by the big parties are giving us good coverage, and they fight within their organisation to give us good coverage, because they see us as a new hope in Indonesian politics.

NG: Dr Mallarangeng also says there's a new way of spreading political messages in Indonesia, that could give parties like his, an edge.

MALLARANGENG: SMS. Political SMS. For example when Golkar, PDI-P, buying all different ads, right now we have SMS responding, ridiculing those ads whether it's Akbar Tandjung style, those political SMS are trying to resist the domination of the big parties.


PACIFIC MEDIA WATCH is an independent, non-profit, non-government organisation comprising journalists, lawyers, editors and other media workers, dedicated to examining issues of ethics, accountability, censorship, media freedom and media ownership in the Pacific region. Launched in October 1996, it has links with the Journalism Program at the University of the South Pacific, Bushfire Media based in Sydney, Journalism Studies at the University of PNG (UPNG), the Australian Centre for Independent Journalism (ACIJ), Auckland University of Technology in New Zealand, and Community Communications Online (c2o).

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Sunday, 28 March 2004


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Saturday, March 06, 2004

Elements of a Free Press in Indonesia

By Bill Kovach
Nieman Reports Spring 2004 p. 86 - 87


When Tom Rosenstiel and I wrote “The Elements of Journalism: What Newspeople Should Know and the Public Should Expect,” we felt pretty confident there would be an interested audience among journalists in the United States. But since its publication in 2001, we’ve been surprised that the book is attracting a wide international audience. As of the beginning of this year, the book is being published in 18 countries.

From November 30 until December 17, 2003, thanks to Andreas Harsono, a 2000 Nieman Fellow, I had a chance to see how concepts rooted in 17th and 18th century Western thought appear to journalists of a newly emerging Eastern press. Andreas had arranged for the translation of the book into Bahasa Indonesia; organized an intense islandhopping five-city schedule of university lectures, working lunches, and visits with media owners, and accompanied me as interpreter.

Judging by the challenges and questions I received, two of the elements described in the book—“a discipline of verification” and “journalism’s first obligation is to the truth”—were of most interest to the journalists there. One element prompted skepticism, the other generated confusion.

The skepticism focused on verification as a defining element of journalism primarily because of their own observed behavior of the American press as represented by the widely reported scandals of Stephen Glass at The New Republic and Jayson Blair at The New York Times. This allowed me to use the Committee of Concerned Journalists’ Traveling Curriculum, inspired by the book, which we have presented in newsrooms around the United States. The part we focused on there included the idea of “transparency,” a concept informed by the simple idea that you never deceive your audience. And you do this by making sure each story meets these needs:

● That you tell your audience what you know but also what you don’t know about the subject of he story;

● That you never imply more knowledge than you actually have;

● That you tell whom your sources are, how they are in a position to know, and what potential biases they might have.

Stephen Glass and Jayson Blair might never have been published had the transparency standard been applied to their work. The Indonesian audiences seemed to find that concept worthy of consideration, but I can only wonder what they thought later when they read about Jack Kelley at USA Today.

The notion of truth led to confusion because of years of post-modern philosophical debate about the nature of truth. At almost every stop we engaged in lively discussions as I tried to explain the “practical truth” of journalism: a truth obtained over time by the careful accumulation of evidence. Methods of arriving at the truth includecontinual reporting, calls, letters and op-ed articles from the public, with follow-up reporting. The story is always subject to revision as new evidence is discovered.

The most encouraging thing to me was that in the largest Muslim nation in the world and one that has been free of dictatorial government for only six years, these and other basic ideas about journalism in a free and open society were matters of active engagement and serious discussion at every university and news organization in every city I visited on the islands of Java, Sumatra and Bali.

Certainly there were insistent challenges about the way journalists in the United States perform. The challenges focused on coverage of the Middle East, especially Israel, and our coverage of the war in Iraq. But their questions and challenges were little different in kind, tone or relative number, than they would be here in the United States.

Another encouraging thing to me was that Indonesia, which has had no long history of a free press, after only five years of legally free publication is at about that same level of development I have seen in the same time frame in eastern and central Europe, areas that have had a previous history of press freedom. The Indonesian press may be a bit more unruly and more tenuous but with the same penchant for soft porn, gossip and rumor, including the virulently persistent rumor that 4,000 Jews did not go to work in the World Trade Center on September 11th. And like some countries in Latin America, they are still plagued with “envelope journalism,” a practice of dictatorial governments that has spread to commercial interests to reward journalists for favorable treatment, a practice that allows press owners, in turn, to pay scandalously low wages. But all of these seem to be transitional growing pains, and all are under lively and serious debate among journalists.

Another troublesome trend I saw is the fear of Indonesia’s political leadership of too much freedom. As the country moves toward its first free election of a president there are renewed efforts to return more government control. These fears spawn multiple efforts that loom like a three-headed dragon over Indonesia’s free press and include:

● A government commission to define and enforce the licensing laws for electronic press enacted in the post-Suharto reforms is only now being named, and some of the appointees being discussed share a fear and disdain of the free press;

● Legislative proposals are pending to extend to the print press the requirement already in the law for licensing of the electronic media;

● A series of as many as 70 changes in the criminal code of provisions specifically designed to restrict press freedom.

On my last night in Jakarta, I was lucky enough to be part of a reunion of the country’s Nieman Fellows Sabam Siagian ’79, Goenawan Mohamad ’90, Ratih Hardjono ’94, and Andreas. It was a warm evening of fellowship fueled by good food, good wine, good memories, and a conversation that helped me put two and a half weeks in Indonesia into some perspective. My conclusion that I jotted down as I flew back home was this:

The future of a free press and freedom of expression in Indonesia still hangs in tenuous balance. The problems I cited, exacerbated by a difficult economic climate and the chronic instability of civilian control generated by the terrorist threat, are each serious enough to stop or even reverse its continued development.

But the journalists are reporting on these issues. They are debating and analyzing them with an energy, intelligence and skill that, at their best, can easily compete in the current international communication’s climate. Equally important, they are beginning to build the infrastructure of independent organizations needed to spread and protect shared values over a sprawling and diverse region just as others are building nongovernmental organizations that nurture a free society.


Bill Kovach, a 1989 Nieman Fellow, is chairman of the Committee of Concerned Journalists and former Curator of the Nieman Foundation.

Thursday, March 04, 2004

Bangladesh: CPJ delegation on press freedom

Copyright 2004 United News of Bangladesh
United News of Bangladesh

DATELINE: Dhaka, Mar 4, 2004

Home Minister Altaf Hossain Chowdhury has said that journalists enjoy unfettered press freedom here and the government attaches topmost priority to their professional safety.

The Home Minster said this when a delegation of the New York-based Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) led by its Executive Director Ann Cooper called on him at his secretariat office today (Thursday).

Asia Program Coordinator of CPJ Abi Wright, journalist Iqbal Athas of Sri Lanka and Andreas Harsono of Indonesia accompanied her during the call on.

The delegation made queries about the steps taken by the present government to protect journalists at work.

The Home Minister informed the visiting journalists that he had sent letters to the Deputy Commissioners and police chiefs of all the 64 districts of the country asking them to protect journalists and provide them security when they are threatened.

The minister said that there was no deliberate targeting of the journalists.

CPJ leaders also wanted to know about the progress in investigation of cases of injury and murder of journalists at various places of the country, including the southwestern region.

The Home minister said that the government was pursuing the cases with utmost seriousness and most of these cases have been brought under the purview of the Monitoring Cell of the Ministry of Home Affairs.

"There is no delay in investigation and prosecution of cases, but the decisions of the courts are beyond the jurisdiction of the government," Altaf Hossain Chowdhury pointed out.

As for the injuries suffered by journalists during agitation programmes, the minister said, "It is the responsibility of the police force to protect the lives and properties of the general public. But police cannot help if anybody is caught in the melee during police action."

The Home Minister also noted that many people were engaged in unethical, criminal and political activities in the guise of journalists, especially in the countryside district areas and they often face backlash as a consequence of their activities.

"So, differentiation should be made between these people and those who face threats or harassments while actually engaged in the profession of journalism," he mentioned.

The minister elaborated on the structure and functions of the law enforcement agencies in the country.

Monday, March 01, 2004

Athas on fact-finding team to probe state of media in Bangladesh

Daily News Monday, 1 March 2004

The Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ), a prestigious media watchdog body in the US, has invited award-winning Sri Lankan journalist Iqbal Athas to join an international fact-finding team to investigate the state of the Media in Bangladesh.

Athas, Consultant Editor and Defence Correspondent of the Sunday Times, will be part of a four member CPJ delegation on a weeklong tour of Bangladesh.

Athas, who is a member of the Washington-based International Consortium of Investigative Journalists (ICIJ), won CPJ's International Press Freedom Award in 1994.

The delegation, led by Ann Cooper, Executive Director of the Committee to Protect Journalists, will also include Andreas Harsono, Managing Editor of the monthly Pantau from Indonesia and Abi Wright, CPJ asia Program Coordinator.

Wright said the CPJ mission will focus on issues relating to the defence of journalists throughout Bangladesh.

"In our meetings with journalists and activists, we will hear firsthand about the challenges they face, try to learn more about local efforts to secure journalists' safety, and offer solidarity from the international journalism and NGO communities," she added.

The team will meet with government officials from both the ruling Bangladesh Nationalist Party and the opposition Awami League party.

"We plan to present compelling arguments in the defence of press freedom, and to provide officials with a list of specific cases for their attention. In addition, we will attempt to secure a pledge of action in the support of a free and safe media from officials," Wright added.

The team will hold a press conference to discuss the findings of the trip on March 5 at the Pan Pacific Sonargoan Hotel in Dhaka.

Beyond the Jilbab

March 2004

Andreas Harsono / Newsbreak


Yuli Suriani is a student at the Banda, Aceh-based Syiah Kuala University, who also works as a radio broadcaster. She is petite and usually wears blue jeans and a canvas jacket. Like most women in Banda, Aceh, Yuli uses a jilbab to cover her head, a cotton scarf that usually matches the color of her dresses. “I feel like imperfect without jilbab. It is a symbol of Muslim women with high status,” she told me last June.

The 27-year-old Yuli has been using the scarf since 1999 to cover what she considers her aurat (an Arabic word meaning “scar” or “hole”). According to an interpretation of the Quran, the “scar” is shameful and must be covered. A man’s aurat is the area between his belly button and his knees, meaning that a Muslim man should not wear shorts, while a woman’s aurat is from her hair to her knees. But stricter interpretation says a woman’s aurat includes her face, prompting some women to use jalabiya (dark robe) and cadar (face cover).

Despite the different interpretations and her own dress code, Yuli disagrees with a recent government regulation that requires all Aceh women to wear jilbab. She believes that faith is an individual matter. There are people whose appearances make them look easygoing, but who knows what’s deep inside their hearts?

“Islam is flexible. Islam does not force people. Jilbab or not, it’s your own business with God,” Yuli said.

Welcome to the complexities of implementing “Islamic shariah” in Aceh, where about 98 percent of the 4.2 million people are officially Muslim. Its towns and villages are graced by thousands of well-kept mosques. Arab merchants introduced Islam to the region 900 years ago, and from there it spread to the rest of what is now Indonesia.

Aceh is also Indonesia’s most rebellious province, where bloody wars against Jakarta have killed thousands of Acehnese. In January 2002, in an apparent bid to tame Aceh, Jakarta granted the privilege to implement Islamic shariah in Aceh. The local government at once set up a 27-member council of ulamas, whose main duty is to make fatwa (Islamic decisions) and which positioned itself as the fourth branch of Aceh’s governmen (in addition to the judiciary, the legislature, and the executive).

Dress Code

Muslim Ibrahim, head of the newly appointed Ulamas’ Consultative Assembly, said that the members were initially selected at the district level. Each district nominated 10 ulamas believed “to understand shariah the most and [to have] fluent Arabic.” Nominees from all districts in a regency were narrowed down to ten ulamas. These ten nominees represented the regency in a provincial contest. Aceh has thirteen regencies, meaning that 130 ulamas from the regencies plus twenty representatives from the universities contested twenty-seven seats in the assembly. They conducted the voting themselves. Ibrahim was elected the first council chairman.

Ibrahim represents the academic world. He obtained his Ph.D. in shariah from the al-Azhar University in Cairo in 1984. Ibrahim teaches “modern fiqih (law)” in the Banda, Aceh-based ar-Raniry State Islamic Institute. He is one of many Acehnese ulamas who applauded the government decision to implement shariah, arguing that the now-defunct sultanate of Aceh had used shariah to run the country for centuries.

“Islam could always be appropriate in places and times,” Ibrahim said, adding that the council is now preparing local regulations on almost everything in accordance with Islam. He said the sources for their regulations are the Quran and the words (hadith) and practice (sunnah) of Muhammad and his early companions. These also included iqtihad (interpretation).

Debate on Islamic interpretation is not new. In the early days of Islam, this resulted in the formation of the shariah law, based on the Quran and the life and maxims of the Prophet. It is a code similar to the Jewish Torah. The words of Muhammad were collected during the eighth and ninth centuries by a number of editors, the most famous of whom were Muhammad ibn Ismail al-Bukhari and Muslim ibn al-Hijjah al-Qushayri. Today Ibrahim and his peers are trying to enact those seventh- and eighth-century maxims into action.

However, it is not yet clear how Islamic law will be implemented in daily life. Many are still puzzled about how shariah will deal with the guerrilla war and the atrocities in Aceh. It is also not clear how shariah will apply to non-Muslims and how it will deal with questions of modernity like democracy and civil liberty. The ancient shariah did not accommodate modern democracy.

With these important questions remaining to be answered, one of the first rulings of Ibrahim’s council was the dress code – women were asked to use jilbab.

Everyday Islam

The Free Acheh Movement (GAM) and human rights watch groups argued that the Acehnese did not need the implementation of a law to prove that Islam is alive in Aceh. They said that the Acehnese practice Islam in almost everything they do and that they had been formally observing shariah law in daily life for decades, in such areas as marriage, divorce, and the ban on alcohol. But they reject strict punishments that shariah in theory can dispense, such as the amputation of hands for theft.

“Shariah law is not what the Achehnese have been striving for, nor is it the cause of the conflict between Acheh and Jakarta. Indonesia is trying to raise this issue just for political reasons (a new, tricky move to divert your and the world’s attention from the real issue, namely, the right to self-determination of the people of Acheh),” said GAM leader Husaini Hassan in a letter sent to the ambassadors of Islamic countries in Indonesia in December 2000.

“In my opinion, if shariah is to be implemented anywhere, those who will suffer the most are women. All interpretations and decisions are made by men,” said Lily Zakiah Munir, the director of the Jakarta-based Center for Pesantren and Democracy Studies, who has completed a survey on the shariah campaign in Aceh. She added that the twenty-seven ulamas are all men.

In other parts of Indonesia, large Muslim organizations such as the 30-million strong Nahdlatul Ulama and the 20-million strong Muhammadiyah have openly opposed the shariah campaign, saying that it is mere rhetoric. The two organizations believe that the ideals of social justice and human dignity are being implemented in Indonesia under the state ideology of Pancasila.

Ironically, it was President Abdurrahman Wahid, himself a liberal Muslim thinker and an advocate of religious tolerance, who raised the idea of having Aceh implement shariah. Initially, Wahid suggested that the Acehnese could hold a referendum on whether to remain part of Indonesia or become independent. Many protested, as Indonesian nationalists were still traumatized by the 1999 UN-sponsored referendum in East Timor that resulted in the creation of an independent Timor Leste. Wahid backtracked and said that his intention was not a referendum on “independence,” but on their “independence to implement shariah.”

Indonesia was established in 1945 as a secular state with an official ideology called Pancasila (belief in one God, humanity, the unity of Indonesia, democracy, and social justice). Islam was not made into a state religion. Over the years, however, many Islamists have campaigned for Indonesia, the country with the world’s largest Muslim majority, to adopt Islam as a state ideology.

Scarves and Cleavages

Nowadays stories circulate in Banda, Aceh, about women without “proper attire” being stopped on the streets by the shariah police and asked to cover their heads. Some female students have been asked to go home and change.

When I was in Banda in June, every woman seemed to wear jilbab in public places, although many also wore “modish” clothes that showed their figures. “Necks are still seen, jilbabs are seen only as a formality,” said Yuli.

At the School of Economics at the Syiah Kuala University, girls use jilbab at least as a formality. In other places in Banda, I saw young women who covered their heads but showed the cleavage of their breasts. A popular joke is that even prostitutes in Aceh wear jilbabs. I visited one beauty parlor and a karaoke bar in Banda, but never met prostitutes using veils.

I found more women without jilbabs in rural areas and in free-port Sabang, where women went out freely, wearing jeans and shorts and without veils. To Muslim Ibrahim, these women are not religious enough. To many women like Yuli Suriani, however, Islam is a presence, not an obligation. Waving the shariah like an olive branch has shown how little Jakarta understands the Acehnese way of life and their need, not for shariah law but for any law that would do away with impunity and bring soldiers to justice for rights abuses (in accordance with the Quran).

I visited Imam Syuja’, the chairman of the Muhammadiyah in Aceh, to learn his views about shariah. I asked him the relevance of the killings in Aceh that are taking place under the shariah system. Syuja’ said, “Our ulamas are busier talking about shariah than about justice. Our ulamas are busier getting closer to the powers than nurturing an independent mechanism toward the government. It is an irony, isn’t it?” He lamented the complexities of the Aceh problem, a mix of rising nationalism among the Acehnese, sentiment against Jakarta, and the shariah campaign amidst the war.

Ulamas are busier talking about the legality of a jilbab than protesting the killings of so many Acehnese right in front of their noses.