News / Asia

    In Aceh, Enforced Sharia Law Has Outsized Impact

    Indonesian Province Has Strictest Morality Regulations in the Country

    Brian Padden

    In Aceh Province on the Indonesian island of Sumatra, Sharia police break up a game of dominos. Despite the players' protests that they are not gambling, the police confiscate the game and leave them this time with a warning.

    The incident ends with handshakes and good humor, but this is serious business.

    In 1999, Indonesia first allowed the conservative province to partially implement Sharia law, and now Aceh is under enforcement of some of the strictest morality regulations in the country. Although the laws apply to Muslims only, Sharia courts and police have grown increasingly powerful since the 2005 peace agreement that ended a 30-year war for independence, and some human rights groups say their methods involve harassment and abuse, particularly against women.

    Evi Zain
    Evi Zain

    Evi Zain, with the human rights coalition HAM Aceh, says that, for women, the intimidating nature of enforced Sharia law enforcement institutes a culture of oppression. Although many accusations made against women contain harassment, the real problem, she says, is that some are neither brave enough nor accustomed to expressing what they feel. While Zain supports the conservative values that Sharia law strives to uphold, she says anyone who criticizes its forced implementation is labeled as anti-Islam, and that incidents of violence against women are increasingly justified by the popular attitude that women who don't obey the rules imposed by men get what they deserve.

    Zain says Sharia police often abuse their authority, and that in one village they outlawed pants by mandating long skirts for women. Some Sharia police have been arrested for abuse and even rape.

    Commissioner Darmansyah
    Commissioner Darmansyah

    According to head of the Sharia Police Information Division, Commissioner Darmansyah, the 7,000 Sharia police in Aceh merely enforce bans on gambling, alcohol consumption, adultery and dress codes for women. Whereas violation of these strictures carries a stiff, violent penalty -- adulterers are publicly caned, for example -- he says their job is primarily to educate Muslims to better understand Islamic values.

    The nature of the caning is not to injure people or kill them, he says, describing it as a kind of counseling to make them think twice. He says the all-male Sharia police patrols spend most of their time counseling women to wear headscarves and trying to keep unmarried couples apart.

    Many Acehnese women, such as Ernianti, support their efforts to enforce Islamic values and conduct. While women often become victims, she says, it is basically their own fault because they don't cover themselves.

    Twenty-two-year-old Eci agrees. She says Sharia law should also ban the sale of non-Muslim clothing, explaining that things would be different if the market only sold Muslim dress, that there would be no more tight and sexy clothing.

    Deputy Mayor Illiza Sa'aduddin Djamal
    Deputy Mayor Illiza Sa'aduddin Djamal

    Banda Aceh Deputy Mayor Illiza Sa’aduddin Djamal says the vast majority of Muslims here also support Sharia law, and that the few who won't comply tend to be rebellious.

    One such rebel is 20-year-old, English-speaking law student Nindi Silvie, who says government authorities should focus on things aside from her personal life.

    "I guess they should think about how to get rid of this bad economy, how to build a good society, how to increase children's education and stuff, instead of saying your morality is bad and mine is good," she says.

    You May Like

    Turkey, US Splits Deepen Over Support for Kurdish Militants

    Ankara summons American ambassador to protest remarks by State Department spokesman who said Washington does not consider Syria's Kurdish Democracy Union Party (PYD) a terrorist organization

    Obama Seeking $19 Billion for National Cybersecurity

    Move, touted as attempt to build broad, cohesive federal response to cyberthreats, calls for increase in cybersecurity spending across all government agencies

    Video Foreign Policy Weighs Heavy for Some US Voters

    VOA talks to protesters in Manchester, New Hampshire, who sound off on foreign policy issues such as the Guantanamo Bay prison, the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and the wars in Iraq, Syria and Yemen

    This forum has been closed.
    Comments
         
    There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

    Featured Videos

    Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
    Valentine's Day Stinks for Lebanese Clownsi
    X
    February 09, 2016 8:04 PM
    This weekend, on Valentine's Day in Lebanon, love is not the only thing in the air. More than half a year after the country's trash crisis began, the stink of uncollected garbage remains on the streets. Step forward "Clown Me In," a group of clowns who use their skills for activism. Before the most romantic day of the year the clowns have released their unusual take on love in Lebanon -- in a bid to keep the pressure up and get the trash off the streets. John Owens reports from Beirut.
    Video

    Video Valentine's Day Stinks for Lebanese Clowns

    This weekend, on Valentine's Day in Lebanon, love is not the only thing in the air. More than half a year after the country's trash crisis began, the stink of uncollected garbage remains on the streets. Step forward "Clown Me In," a group of clowns who use their skills for activism. Before the most romantic day of the year the clowns have released their unusual take on love in Lebanon -- in a bid to keep the pressure up and get the trash off the streets. John Owens reports from Beirut.
    Video

    Video Rocky Year Ahead for Nigeria Amid Oil Price Crash

    The global fall in the price of oil has rattled the economies of many petroleum exporters, and Africa’s oil king Nigeria is no exception. As Chris Stein reports from Lagos, analysts are predicting a rough year ahead for the continent’s top producer of crude.
    Video

    Video Foreign Policy Weighs Heavy for Some US Voters

    VOA talks to protesters in Manchester, New Hampshire who sound off on foreign policy issues such as the Guantanamo Bay Prison, the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, Middle East Affairs and national security.
    Video

    Video 'No Means No' Program Targets Sexual Violence in Kenya

    The organizers of an initiative to reduce and stop rape in the informal settlements around Kenya's capital say their program is having marked success. Girls are taking self-defense classes while the boys are learning how to protect the girls and respect them. Lenny Ruvaga reports from Nairobi.
    Video

    Video New Hampshire Voters Are Independent, Mindful of History

    Once every four years, the northeastern state of New Hampshire becomes the center of the U.S. political universe with its first-in-the-nation presidential primary. What's unusual about New Hampshire is how seriously the voters take their role and the responsibility of being among the first to weigh in on the candidates.
    Video

    Video Chocolate Lovers Get a Sweet History Lesson

    Observed in many countries around the world, Valentine’s Day is sometimes celebrated with chocolate festivals. But at a festival near Washington, the visitors experience a bit more than a sugar rush. They go on a sweet journey through history. VOA’s June Soh takes us to the festival.
    Video

    Video 'Smart' Bandages Could Heal Wounds More Quickly

    Simple bandages are usually seen as the first line of attack in healing small to moderate wounds and burns. But scientists say new synthetic materials with embedded microsensors could turn bandages into a much more valuable tool for emergency physicians. VOA’s George Putic reports.
    Video

    Video Bhutanese Refugees in New Hampshire Closely Watching Primary Election

    They fled their country and lived in refugee camps in neighboring Nepal for decades before being resettled in the northeastern U.S. state of New Hampshire -- now the focus of the U.S. presidential contest. VOA correspondent Aru Pande spoke with members of the Bhutanese community, including new American citizens, about the campaign and the strong anti-immigrant rhetoric of some of the candidates.
    Video

    Video Researchers Use 3-D Printer to Produce Transplantable Body Parts

    Human organ transplants have become fairly common around the world in the past few decades. Researchers at various universities are coordinating their efforts to find solutions -- including teams at the University of Pennsylvania and Rice University in Houston that are experimenting with a 3-D printer -- to make blood vessels and other structures for implant. As VOA’s Greg Flakus reports from Houston, they are also using these artificial body parts to seek ways of defeating cancerous tumors.
    Video

    Video Helping the Blind 'See' Great Art

    There are 285 million blind and visually impaired people in the world who are unable to enjoy visual art at a museum. One New York photographer is trying to fix this situation by making tangible copies of the world’s masterpieces. VOA correspondent Victoria Kupchinetsky was there as visually impaired people got a feel for great art. Joy Wagner narrates her report.
    Video

    Video German Artists to Memorialize Refugees With Life Jacket Exhibit

    Sold in every kind of shop in some Turkish port towns, life jackets have become a symbol of the refugee crisis that brought a million people to Europe in 2015.  On the shores of Lesbos, Greece, German artists collect discarded life jackets as they prepare an art installation they plan to display in Germany.  For VOA, Hamada Elrasam has this report from Lesbos, Greece.
    Video

    Video E-readers Help Ease Africa's Book Shortage

    Millions of people in Africa can't read, and there's a chronic shortage of books. A non-profit organization called Worldreader is trying to help change all that one e-reader at a time. VOA’s Deborah Block tells us about a girls' school in Nairobi, Kenya where Worldreader is making a difference.
    Video

    Video Genius Lets World Share Its Knowledge

    Inspired by crowdsourcing companies like Wikipedia, Genius allows anyone to edit anything on the web, using its web annotation tool
    Video

    Video In Philippines, Mixed Feelings About Greater US Military Presence

    In the Philippines, some who will be directly affected by a recent Supreme Court decision clearing the way for more United States troop visits are having mixed reactions.  The increased rotations come at a time when the Philippines is trying to build up its military in the face of growing maritime assertiveness from China.  From Bahile, Palawan on the coast of the South China Sea, Simone Orendain has this story.