Mon. Apr 22nd, 2019

Those who take the risk of living outside the Sharia in Indonesia Aceh

Those who take the risk of living outside the Sharia in Indonesia Aceh



A handful of activists, artists and intellectuals take the risk of living outside the strict Islamic law in the province of Aceh, the only one in Indonesia where the law is in force. sharia and where on Wednesday general elections are held as in the rest of the country.

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West of the island of Sumatra, Aceh represents the most conservative face of a nation with about 250 million inhabitants with the largest Muslim population in the world, and in recent years is experiencing the rise of more reactionary Islam.

Among the quiet streets of the provincial capital Banda Aceh, the mantle of Sharia it allows for a certain relaxation evidenced by non-Muslim women who lack veils or some interactions between men and women who fail to meet the requirements of gender segregation.

However, local authorities have punished today by beating a wooden stick in a public square in Banda Aceh several people convicted of the crimes of betting and having sex without being married.

After the last revision of the Sharia conducted in 2015, the law also criminalizes sodomy, lesbian sex or alcohol consumption, in addition to other common crimes such as murder or rape.

An attorney who defends defendants under the Sharia and who prefers to remain anonymous, indicates that the Islamic legislation affects in the first place the woman, who is held responsible for crimes such as adultery or rape, as well as moral faults of her family.

"The woman is the pillar of religion, when the pillar breaks the religion and the community are broken also," says the lawyer to Efe in a cafeteria in Banda Aceh.

The lawyer, who challenges the eyes of the Police of the Sharia By not covering her hair and wearing pants instead of a long skirt, she claims to have received threats for her activism and support for women.

"Some village leaders call me provocative, because I talk about the cases and I say that women should raise their voices and fight for their rights," says the Indonesian.

"Sometimes I imagine that maybe one day I will go to jail and then, after having lost everything, I may feel freer to speak louder," he adds.

The western province gradually introduced Islamic law from 2003 as a concession by the central government to abandon its independence aspirations and advance the peace process with the armed separatist group Movement for the Liberation of Aceh (GAM, in Indonesian).

Although the vast majority of the population of Aceh supports the existence of Sharia, criticisms regarding its implementation have increased in recent years.

For Syiah Kuala university professor, Mirza Ardi, who teaches Islamic law, in reality the Sharia"It does not consist in punishing with blows, nor forcing women to wear the veil, it consists in educating, in reducing inequality and in good government."

Mirza regrets in an interview with Efe that the moderate factions of civil society were not heard during the process of preparing the revisions of the Islamic law, and assures that among the most progressive intellectuals a climate of fear and self-censorship reigns.

The provincial legislative chamber of Aceh is very close to the leaders of Islamic schools, which "see Islam in a sectarian, very conservative way, so nobody listens to the voices of the more moderate on campus," says the academic.

In 2015, university professor Rosnida Sari took her Muslim students to a church as part of a lesson and, when the case went viral, she was accused of trying to Christianize her students, away from academic life and threatened with death.

Not far from the center of Banda Aceh, a house covered by graffiti and paintings serves as a meeting point for some young artists who find there a space free of the rigidity prevailing in the Acehnese society.

The young Mohamed, 25 years old, has formed with two other artists a band in which they treat all kinds of topics and even make social criticism, but the musician regrets that self-censorship "is excessive" when talking about the Government or the religion, although he assures that there is still space to use art as a form of expression.

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