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

Philippines, Muslim Rebels Try to Salvage Peace Pact

Peace process faces major setback after botched military operation to find terrorists results in bloody gunbattle between government forces, Moro Islamic Liberation Front fighters More

Republicans Expect Long, Expensive Presidential Battle

Political strategist says eventual winner will be one who can put together strongest coalition of various conservative groups that make up Republican Party More

Video New Wheelchair Is Easier to Use, Increases Mobility

Engineers have come up with a lever-operated design that makes use of easily accessible bicycle technology More

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.
Liberia's Almost Last Ebola Patient Grateful but Still Grievingi
X
Benno Muchler
March 26, 2015 3:41 PM
Beatrice Yardolo was to make history as Liberia’s last Ebola patient. Liberians recently started counting down 42 days, the period that has to go by without a single new infection until the World Health Organization can declare a country Ebola-free. That countdown stopped on March 20 when there was another new case of Ebola, making Yardolo’s story a reminder that Ebola is far from over. Benno Muchler reports from Monrovia.
Video

Video Liberia's Almost Last Ebola Patient Grateful but Still Grieving

Beatrice Yardolo was to make history as Liberia’s last Ebola patient. Liberians recently started counting down 42 days, the period that has to go by without a single new infection until the World Health Organization can declare a country Ebola-free. That countdown stopped on March 20 when there was another new case of Ebola, making Yardolo’s story a reminder that Ebola is far from over. Benno Muchler reports from Monrovia.
Video

Video Cambodian Land Grabs Threaten Traditional Communities

Indigenous communities in Cambodia's Ratanakiri province say the government’s economic land concession policy is taking away their land and traditional way of life, making many fear that their identity will soon be lost. Local authorities, though, have denied this is the case. VOA's Say Mony went to investigate and filed this report, narrated by Colin Lovett.
Video

Video US, South Korea Conduct Joint Military Exercises

The Eighth U.S. Army Division and the Eighth Republic of Korea Mechanized Infantry Division put on a well orchestrated show of force for the media this week during their joint military training exercises in South Korea. VOA’s Seoul correspondent Brian Padden was there and reports the soldiers were well disciplined both in conducting a complex live fire exercise and in staying on message with the press.
Video

Video Space Program Status Disappoints 'Last Man on the Moon'

One of the films that drew big crowds last week at the annual South by Southwest festival in Austin, Texas, tells the story of the last human being to stand on the moon, U.S. astronaut Eugene Cernan. It has been 42 years since Cernan returned from the moon and he laments that no one else has gone there since. VOA’s Greg Flakus reports.
Video

Video Young Filmmakers Shine Spotlight on Giving Back

A group of student filmmakers from across the United States joined President Barack Obama at the White House this month for the second annual White House Student Film Festival. Fifteen short films were officially selected from more than 1,500 entries by students aged 6 through 18. The filmmakers and their families then joined the president and a group of celebrities for a screening of their films. VOA’s Julie Taboh reports.
Video

Video VOA Exclusive: Interview with Afghan President Ashraf Ghani

Afghan President Ashraf Ghani, during his first visit as president to Washington, gave a one-on-one interview with VOA Afghan Service reporter Said Suleiman Ashna, about his request for a change in U.S. troop levels, the threat from the Islamic State, and repairing relations with the United States and Pakistan. The interview was held at Blair House, late Sunday, in Pashto.
Video

Video California Science Center Tells Story of Dead Sea Scrolls

The ancient manuscripts were uncovered in the mid-20th century, and they are still yielding clues about life and religious beliefs in ancient Israel. As VOA's Mike O'Sullivan reports, an exhibit in Los Angeles shows how modern science is bringing the history of these ancient documents to life.
Video

Video Angelina Jolie Takes Another Bold Step

Hollywood actress and filmmaker Angelina Jolie has revealed she had her ovaries and fallopian tubes removed to lower her odds of getting cancer. Doctors say the huge publicity over her decision will help raise awareness about the importance of cancer screening. VOA’s George Putic has more

All About America

Circumventing Censorship

An Internet Primer for Healthy Web Habits

As surveillance and censoring technologies advance, so, too, do new tools for your computer or mobile device that help protect your privacy and break through Internet censorship.
More