Islamic police tighten grip on Indonesia's Aceh

Wed Jan 13, 2010 10:23pm EST
 
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By Masako Iijima

BANDA ACEH, Indonesia (Reuters Life!) - It looks like a typical day at the beach: children frolick in the waves, girls chat by the beach front and music blares from a radio perched by a group of young men.

But this is Banda Aceh, the only province in majority Muslim Indonesia that uses Islamic sharia law as its legal code, and the mood at the beach becomes instantly tense as a group of policemen who strictly enforce this law pull up in pick-up trucks.

The police unit, called the "Wilayatul Hisbah", is looking for unmarried couples, Muslim women without headscarves or those wearing tight clothes, and people drinking alcohol or gambling.

Amid the throngs of people at the beach, there are always couples. The young men and women sit modestly apart, but they are still targets of the sharia police.

"You are not married, you should not be here together. You must leave now," says one officer to a couple, who sullenly walk to the parking lot as crowds silently watch.

Girls wearing tight trousers are also reprimanded.

"You should be ashamed of yourselves for dressing this way," says the officer to two youngsters in jeans. "Go home and change into something more modest."

Indonesia is the world's most populous Muslim nation, but nowhere is the faith more strictly interpreted than in Aceh, sometimes referred to as the "verandah of Mecca" because it was one of the first parts of the archipelago to turn to Islam.   Continued...

 
<p>Sharia police reprimand two women for wearing tight trousers in Banda Aceh, December 18, 2009. REUTERS/Masako Iijima</p>