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Ban on outdoor music concerts in West Aceh due to Sharia law

Sydney Morning Herald - April 6, 2016

Jewel Topsfield, Jakarta Outdoor music concerts have been banned from a regency in Indonesia's conservative Aceh province on the grounds they violate Sharia law.

Draconian regulations such as a ban on women straddling motorcycles (they must ride side-saddle), unaccompanied women working or visiting night spots after 11pm and a requirement that boys and girls are taught separately at school have been introduced in different parts of Aceh in recent years.

The province, the only part of Indonesia that enforces Sharia law, also outlaws gambling, drinking and even fraternising with the opposite sex outside marriage. Muslim women must wear a hijab in public and gay sex is punishable by 100 lashes of the cane.

The outdoor music ban comes after local singing sensation Ady Bergek was told he could not proceed with a gig on April 3 because it would violate Sharia law.

West Aceh regent (bupati) Teuku Alaidinsyah was quoted in Kompas saying the ban was based on a recommendation by Ulema (a body of Muslim scholars trained in Islamic law), who believed a concert had more disadvantages than advantages.

"We will not be issuing a permit for music concerts since the recommendation by the Ulema, but a music event in a cafe or warung kopi [coffee shop] is permitted," he said.

Human Rights Watch Indonesia researcher Andreas Harsono said the ban was a concerning infringement on freedom of expression. "This is a result of the increased formalisation of Sharia in Aceh," he said.

Mr Harsono said local elections were becoming increasingly sectarian, there was a rise in support for Wahhabism, an ultra-conservative branch of Sunni Islam from Saudi Arabia, and a strengthening of legal infrastructure which discriminated against minority religions, homosexuality and women.

Bergek (whose name means unruly in the Acehnese language) is famous for his take on Dangdut, a genre that borrows from traditional Indonesian music as well as from Indian and Malaysian films. His greatest hit Boeh Hate (sweetheart) is part love song, part comedy.

But the Acehnese pop star fell foul of authorities after a concert in Banda Aceh, another regency of Aceh, earlier this year.

"For instance, there was no segregation between male and female spectators and the concert went into the evening, while according to Islamic sharia, a music concert should end before the evening," Teungku Faisal Ali, the deputy head of the Aceh Ulema Council, told Fairfax Media.

"After that we protested, also the mayor's office protested, because the organiser did not comply with the regulations, the Islamic Sharia. And later on the organiser extended their apology."

The central government in Jakarta granted Aceh's religious leaders the right to impose Sharia law in 2001 in a deal struck to quell a decades-long separatist movement in the province.

[With Karuni Rompies and Amilia Rosa.]

Source: http://www.smh.com.au/world/ban-on-outdoor-music-concerts-in-west-aceh-due-to-sharia-law-20160406-gnzvna.html.

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