Sharia, or Islamic law, is not new in the Indonesian province of Banda Aceh. Yet, precious little has been written about it in the American Press. Surprise! It disproportionately affects women!
In a photo montage from the Los Angeles Times, photographer Luis Sinco describes the morality police: “Mostly they stop and lecture women for not being modestly covered up in public and scold unmarried couples for improper contact with members of the opposite sex.” In another photo, police officers chastise such modestly clad teenage girls for the great sin of wearing tights at a beach. These wanton hussies were told to go home and change.
Aw, nothing indicates a flourishing democracy like women being told how to dress. I think there’s another country out there like that… I’ll take Iran for $200.
Now, the last thing I want is to come off as a female Terry Jones. Certainly Muslims are anything but monolithic in their thinking, as Iran’s Green Revolution of 2009 demonstrates. Still, laws based on any ancient text are bound to come off as a thousand or so years out-of-date.
Consider how Sinco describes this scene: “The Sharia police prepare to patrol the streets of Banda Aceh, the capital of Indonesia’s Aceh province. The force is known as ‘the vice and virtue patrol.’ In Aceh, these officers consider themselves the community’s public conscience. And they take their role of enforcing the religious strictures seriously.”
Such an approach bears a striking similarity to Saudi Arabia’s religious police, known as Members of the Commission for the Promotion of Virtue and Prevention of Vice. Both share eerily Orwellian names. But in Saudi Arabia, one Syrian-born woman fought back against these watchmen, shooting at officers in patrol cars after she was caught in “illegal seclusion” with an unrelated man in May of 2010.
This is not the first incident of the fairer sex taking justice into their own hands in the Kingdom. Prior to the shooting, one religious police officer was taken to the hospital after being punched by a woman in her twenties.
The Syrian woman’s actions have been lauded by Saudi human rights activist Wajiha Huwaidar. “People are so fed up with these religious police, and now they have to pay the price for the humiliation they put people through for years and years,” she said. “This is just the beginning and there will be more resistance.”
Saudi sisters are doin’ it for themselves. Let’s hope the women of Banda Aceh follow in their footsteps.