Islamic Law Increasingly, But Unevenly, Enforced

Increasingly, Shariah (Islamic law) is being enforced in Aceh, upsetting the ideal of post-conflict Aceh as an open society. Religious police in brown uniforms—typically men in their 20s and 30s—arrest unmarried couples seen together in public and others for drinking or gambling. And public canings, held at mosques, are becoming increasingly common.

Although Aceh has long had an open-minded approach to Islam, moderate Muslims are finding themselves under siege from orthodox forces. A number of particularly controversial cases have enraged women’s groups, although they are careful to criticize methods of enforcement rather than the Islamic laws per se.

Some critics say that the introduction of Shariah laws represents a form of politics, allowing part of the elite to fatten payrolls for the police and courts.

Others complain that the laws on drinking, gambling, and gender relations are affecting the poor the most, whereas laws on corruption have been neglected.

Jane Perlez, “Indonesian Province Embraces Islamic Law, and Canings,” New York Times, 1 August 2006.