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

Video Is West Doing Enough to Tackle Islamic State?

There is growing uncertainty over whether West’s response to ISIS is adequate More

China Crackdown on Dual Citizens Causes Concern

New policy encourages reporting people who obtain citizenship in another country, but retain Chinese citizenship; move spurs sharp debate More

Video Coalition to Fight Islamic State Could Reward Assad

Losing ground to Islamic State fighters, Syria's government says it is ready to cooperate with international community 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.
Is West Doing Enough to Tackle Islamic State?i
X
Henry Ridgwell
August 29, 2014 12:26 AM
U.S. President Barack Obama has ruled out sending ground troops to Iraq to fight militants of the so-called Islamic State, or ISIS, despite officials in Washington describing the extremist group as the biggest threat the United States has faced in years. Henry Ridgwell reports from London on the growing uncertainty over whether the West’s response to ISIS will be enough to defeat the terrorist threat.
Video

Video Is West Doing Enough to Tackle Islamic State?

U.S. President Barack Obama has ruled out sending ground troops to Iraq to fight militants of the so-called Islamic State, or ISIS, despite officials in Washington describing the extremist group as the biggest threat the United States has faced in years. Henry Ridgwell reports from London on the growing uncertainty over whether the West’s response to ISIS will be enough to defeat the terrorist threat.
Video

Video Pachyderms Play Polo to Raise Money for Elephants

Polo, the ancient team competition typically played on horseback, is known as the “sport of kings.” However, the royal version for one annual event in Thailand swaps the horse for the kingdom’s national symbol - the elephant. VOA Correspondent Steve Herman in Samut Prakan reports that the King’s Cup Elephant Polo tournament is all for a good cause.
Video

Video Coalition to Fight Islamic State Could Reward Assad

The United States along with European and Mideast allies are considering a broader assault against Islamic State fighters who have spread from Syria into Iraq and risk further destabilizing an already troubled region. But as VOA State Department Correspondent Scott Stearns reports, confronting those militants could end up helping the embattled Syrian President Bashar al-Assad.
Video

Video Made in America Socks Get Toehold in Online Fashion Market

Three young entrepreneurs are hoping to revolutionize the high-end sock industry by introducing all-American creations of their own. And they’re doing most of it the old-fashioned way. VOA’s Julie Taboh recently caught up with them to learn what goes into making their one-of-a-kind socks.
Video

Video Americans, Ex-Pats Send Relief Supplies to West Africa

Health organizations from around the world are sending supplies and specialists to the West African countries that are dealing with the worst Ebola outbreak in history. On a smaller scale, ordinary Americans and African expatriates living in the United States are doing the same. VOA's Carol Pearson reports.
Video

Video America's Most Popular Artworks Displayed in Public Places

Public places in cities across America were turned into open-air art galleries in August. Pictures of the nation’s most popular artworks were displayed on billboards, bus shelters, subway platforms and more. The idea behind “Art Everywhere,” a collaborative campaign by five major museums is to allow more people to enjoy art and learn about the country’s culture and history. Faiza Elmasry has more.
Video

Video Chinese Doctors Use 3-D Spinal Implant

A Chinese boy suffering from a debilitating bone disease has become the first patient with a part of his spine created in a three-dimensional printer. Doctors say he will soon regain normal mobility. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Uneasy Calm Settles Over Israel, Gaza Strip

Israel and the Gaza Strip have been calm since a cease-fire set in Tuesday evening, ending seven weeks of hostilities. Hamas, which controls Gaza, declared victory. Israelis were more wart. VOA’s Scott Bobb reports from Jerusalem.
Video

Video India’s Leprosy Battle Stymied by Continuing Stigma

Medical advancements in the treatment of leprosy have greatly diminished its impact around the world, largely eliminating the disease from most countries. India made great strides in combating leprosy, but still accounts for a majority of the world’s new cases each year, and the number of newly infected Indians is rising - more than 130,000 recorded last year. Doctors there say the problem has more to do with society than science. Shaikh Azizur Rahman reports from Kolkata.
Video

Video Scientists Unlock Mystery of Bird Flocks

How can flocks of birds, schools of fish or herds of antelope suddenly change direction -- all the individuals adjusting their movement in concert, at seemingly the same time? British researchers now have some insights into this behavior, which has puzzled scientists for a long time. VOA's George Putic has more.

AppleAndroid