Banda Aceh. Beginning January, Muslim women in West Aceh district will
have to make sure their pants are not too tight lest they run afoul of
the province’s feared religious police.
If caught violating
the new regulation, “their pants will be cut up on the spot and
replaced with a skirt provided free of charge by the government of West
Aceh,” district head Ramli Mansur said.
In fact, he said the
government had already ordered 7,000 skirts of various sizes from
Jakarta to be distributed by Shariah police to women caught with
tight-fitting pants during raids.
Ramli said the new
regulations, which will prevent Muslim women from wearing tight,
curve-revealing clothing and Muslim men from wearing shorts, was issued
at the behest of local clerics who asked the government to implement
Shariah law as thoroughly as possible in the district.
law does not prohibit women from wearing pants. What’s prohibited is
wearing tight-fitting pants or jeans,” he said. “If, for instance, they
have to wear pants, they have to cover their ankles and wear a loose
skirt over it.”
Clothing vendors have also been urged not to sell tight-fitting pants to Muslim women.
Ramli, a former guerilla fighter for the Free Aceh Movement (GAM), said that the rules would only apply to Muslims.
“We still honor the rights of non-Muslims, so they don’t need to fear,” he said.
According to Ramli, the number of Muslim women who already dressed according to the regulation was about 20 percent.
the next two months, the West Aceh authorities will conduct
awareness-raising campaigns for the regulations. One such method, Ramli
said, would be to encourage government employees to refuse to serve
Muslims wearing “un-Islamic” clothing.
“Government staff who
disobey the regulations themselves will be dismissed from their posts,”
he said, although he said that staff members would be given warnings
Ramli acknowledged that the regulation would stir public controversy.
“If people disagree, don’t be mad at me — be angry at God, because what I impose is religious law,” he said.
the afterlife, I will be asked by God, what have I done for the people
of West Aceh during my term in office. What I am doing now is enforcing
thorough Islamic law.”
Acehnese women’s rights activist,
Syarifah Rahmatillah, said in Banda Aceh that West Aceh’s decision
seemed hasty and without a legal foundation.
“In the qanun on
Shariah, there is mention of Muslims having to dress according to
Islamic law, but there is no detail as to what constitutes Islamic
clothing — so we cannot just make up the rules,” said the executive
director of the Women’s Partnership forum (MISPI) in Aceh.
said there were a number of other things the government could do
regarding the application of Shariah in Aceh, including public welfare,
sanitation and corruption.
“Other regions in Indonesia want to
see Shariah succeed in Aceh, but since it was put in effect in 2001,
all we seem to be dealing with is women’s clothing,” she said.
“There is a tendency to view Islamic law from just a very narrow perspective.
look at the bathrooms at government offices in Aceh. Do they reflect
Islamic values, since many of them are dirty and the water sometimes
doesn’t run? And that’s just one example,” she added.
suggested that before imposing the regulation, West Aceh take measures
to support the implementation of Shariah that does not merely focus on
the punitive aspects.
“In his three years in office in West
Aceh, what has Ramli accomplished that he is now reduced to handling
such trifling issues,” she said.
“Many of his people still
live below the poverty line; he should give his priority to people’s
welfare because that is an important issue endorsed by Islam.”