Women's marriage baffles Islamic police in Indonesia's Aceh

Wed Aug 24, 2011 7:52am EDT
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BANDA ACEH, Indonesia (Reuters) - Islamic religious police in Indonesia's Aceh province are stumped about how to handle a case of two women who married at the urging of neighbors concerned that one of the roomates was a man and therefore a couple living in sin.

Aceh is the only province in the country that applies sharia, Islamic laws.

The women, Nuraini and Rohani, came under pressure as neighbors assumed Rohani was a man because of her appearance and male nickname, Ranto. But after the marriage, suspicions grew that Rohani was actually a woman and local residents turned them in to the police on Sunday.

"In the Prophet's book, people committing such a thing should be beheaded or thrown into the sea, but we don't have that in our regulations," Muddasir, the head of Aceh's religious police, told Reuters on Wednesday.

The religious police are responsible for monitoring behavior in the province, often clamping down on skimpy clothing or unmarried couples. Sharia inspired bylaws contain regulations on promiscuity, and adultery can be punished by stoning to death.

Muddasir said his office had leafed through books of bylaws but failed to find any article regulating same-sex marriages.

He said the couple have been detained, with police and religious figures considering ways to separate them forever.

Tengku Faisal Ali, who heads an association of Islamic Boarding School Scholars in Aceh, said the case showed a shifting of values in Aceh society.

This mirrors a wider conflict in the world's most populous Muslim nation between those pushing for an Islamic state and a mostly moderate and youthful population in the archipelago.

(Reporting by Reza Munawir; Writing by Olivia Rondonuwu; Editing by Neil Chatterjee and Ed Lane)