After lunch at a restaurant in Banda Aceh, the Malaysian Muslim Lawyers Association delegation headed towards the Wilayatul Hisbah, Nanggroe Aceh Darussalam’s Headquarters. This is what, can be deemed to be, the Shariah Religious Police of Nanggroe Aceh Darussalam. They are the Shariah Enforcers of this northernmost Islamic Shariah autonomous region of Sumatra, Indonesia.
The Shariah Police Headquarters of Aceh was housed in a derelict building. It was sad to see the condition of the place but we were there to learn about how the authorities of Aceh, not to evaluate their infrastructure. We need to appreciate the Aceh provincial authorities who despite their dire financial situation still had it in them to try their best to instill religious discipline in their tsunami ravaged province. Admirable indeed.
Talking about wanting to implement the Shariah Laws of Allah is one thing but to actually put such enforcement to practice is another. Some might argue that why must Aceh only want to do it now instead of enforcing Islamic Shariah before the 2004 Indian Ocean Tsunami?
Well, we have to take into consideration the fact that Aceh only received it’s autonomy from the Indonesian Central Government in August 2005 after the horrific December 2004 great earthquake and subsequential Tsunami tragedy that killed hundreds of thousands of people in Banda Acheh and caused more than USD$4.5 Billion in damages to the infrastructure of Aceh!
Call it what you may but sometimes, society only starts coming to its senses after such a gruesome tragedy. Yet, without the authorities being committed to maintain law and order, there is a human tendency to fall back to the wants of their lusts and hedonistic ways. It will be back to square one. Even in a traditionally conservative area such as Nanggroe Aceh Darussalam, vice still looms its ugly head every now and then, and if left unchallenged, will fester throughout the region.
Hence, it is understandable that the people of Aceh, especially their provincial authorities, do not want their land to be a place where all kinds of vice and sin runs riot. Remember the fate of Sodom and Gomorrah? Or Pompeii?
Pictured above are the women Syariah Police Officers of Aceh’s Wilayatul Hisbah. Their duties include advising the female members of Aceh’s society to dress modestly and to avoid getting into immoral activities.
The video below shows Simon Reeve, working for the BBC Commercial Channel, joining the Shariah Police of Aceh on one of their patrols.
There is a stark difference in the approach that the Aceh religious authorities are taking than the extreme and harsh methods that the Afghan Taliban took and also those of the Saudi Arabian religious police before the advent of Saudi Crown Prince Mohammad bin Salman.
In 2016, the Saudi Religious Police or Muttawa Hai’a were stripped of their powers to arrest Syariah violaters.
For all the allegations that Aceh was going the way of the male dominated society ala Saudi Arabia or Taleban led Afghanistan, such allegations crumbled to dust for at Banda Aceh, the Wilayatul Hisbah @ Syariah Religious Police Force, their Chief was a lady. Quite a shocker, right?
Here she is, briefing the Malaysian Muslim Lawyers Association delegation about how the Aceh Syariah Police operates?
Answering a question.
Shukarno Mutalib listening to what Dato Zainul Rijal is sharing.
To sum it all up, the Aceh Syariah Laws are enforced through a system which advocates counselling the Syariah offenders in an acceptable manner rather than to just go about whipping or arresting any wrongdoers as they pleased.
In fact, we learned that those caught committing an offence against the Syariah Laws of Allah, would first, be advised to repent and not to repeat the misdeed. They would also be sent for counselling and only the most serious cases, after being found guilty, would be punished by caning in public.
In 2018, two women who were caught having lesbian sex in a car were each given 6 strokes of the Shariah cane at the Terengganu Syariah Court. Read about the case here.
The Catholic Theological Ethics In The World Church published a report about the case here.
“In Shariah (Islamic law) caning, it is not meant to hurt the person. It is to educate the person. Therefore it’s not painful, it’s not harsh” says Muslim Lawyers Association deputy president Abdul Rahim Sinwan.
In the 5th part of this series, I will share photos and stories of what took place when the MMLA [PPMM] team visited the DINAS SYARIAT of Aceh. Equivalent to JAKIM of Malaysia. Insya Allah.