Jakarta (AsiaNews) - A new extremist Islamic group active in Aceh, in particular in the district of North Aceh, and going by the name of Tadkiiratul Ummah, has shot into the limelight recently thanks to its "new" campaign of "moralization" according to the dictates of sharia, Islamic law. Its members are "striking out" at girls and young women who are guilty of wearing "too tight pants". Instead of limiting themselves to a warning, as had already occurred in the past in the region, the militants spray the offender's pants with indelible color spray and paint (in the photo). When asked about the reasons that triggered the group to take up this particular moralization campaign, Teungku Nurdin Usman explains that "local authorities have shown poor performance in implementing the sharia law-based regulations".
According to the spokesman of the extremist group it is a "moral duty" to assure that sharia is respected "both by men and women", both of whom are targeted "by raids and inspections in the streets". He says that boys and men who wear pants that are too tight will be punished in the same way. "It is our hope - Teungku Nurdin Usman concludes - that they (the guilty) will be shamed in public, and will refrain from repeating similar misleading behavior." The extremist leaders will give a sarong to the women who are caught in public wearing inappropriate clothing to put on in place of their tight jeans.
Nevertheless, moderate Muslim movements like that of the Nahdlatul Ulama (Nu) take their distance from the initiative promoted by Tadzkiiratul Ummah, highlighting the fact that the movement lacks the authority to promote this kind of action. Furthermore, during the month of October, the "moral police" (known as Wilayatul Hisbah) in the Aceh Besar district encouraged disciplinary action and fines against women whom they felt were guilty of wearing tight jeans or pants in public.
Indonesia, the most densely populated Muslim nation in the world, is often the stage of attacks or acts of intolerance against minorities, be they Christian, Ahmadi Muslims or of other faiths. In the province of Aceh - the only one in the Archipelago - sharia law is implemented following a peace agreement between the central Government and the Free Aceh Movement (Gam). In many other areas (like Bekasi and Bogor in Western Java) the expression of Islam is becoming more and more radical and extreme. Many Christian places of prayer have been shut down in the past two years due to pressure by extremist movements.
In particular, the clamp-down in Aceh has coincided with the rise to power of the current Governor, Zaini Abdullah, former leader of the armed independence movement (Gam), who is now a politician and has replaced his more "secular" predecessor, Irwandy Jusuf. However his choice of tightening laws, regulations, norms and modes of behavior has not met with the approval of a large slice of the local population that finds itself suddenly forced to change habits and costumes which are rooted in time. Amongst the decisions that are contested by the citizens of Aceh, there is a whole list of bans aimed specifically at women: the wearing of tight jeans and skirts, riding motorcycles with legs astride, dancing in public because they "provoke desire", or celebrating Saint Valentine.