BANDA ACEH, Indonesia (AP) Thousands of Muslims celebrated the opening of Indonesia's first Islamic court, which will prosecute violators of religious law (Shariah) in troubled Aceh province.
While Indonesia has the world's largest Muslim population, the government is officially secular. But to appease rebels in Aceh wracked by decades of civil war the national government granted the region greater autonomy, including the right to implement Islamic law.
The Shariah bill, drawn from the Quran and the teachings of the Prophet Muhammad, calls for the caning of Muslims who propagate beliefs other than Islam, fail to attend Friday prayers three weeks in a row, or sell food and drink in daylight hours during the fasting month of Ramadan.
The Shariah court will eventually handle murder, adultery and theft cases, officials say.
The small number of Christians and believers of other faiths in Aceh will not be prosecuted in Islamic court.
Aceh's population practices a more conservative version of Islam than much of the nation, and officials say Muslim efforts to implement Shariah law elsewhere are unlikely to succeed.
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