In the latest interpretation of sharia law in Indonesia’s Aceh province, it is now “haram” — or religiously forbidden — for a woman to sit at the same cafe table as a man she is not married or related to.
- Jakarta is the most intolerant city in the country, according to an Indonesian think tank
- It also found 201 cases of religious freedom violations across the country
- Indonesia is the largest Muslim society in the world
The local government notice issued in one small Aceh city also advised businesses not to serve women after 9:00pm, unless they were accompanied by a male family member or husband.
Those were just two of 14 listed “acceptable standards” for restaurant and cafe patrons, and the latest in a string of events highlighting the rise of Islamic conservatism across the Indonesian archipelago.
The most notable in recent weeks was the imprisonment of a minority Buddhist ethnic-Chinese woman, known as Meiliana, after she complained about the volume of a mosque’s call to prayer.
The country also saw kindergarten students parade in niqabs and fake assault rifles, as well as a fatwa that claimed the life-saving measles vaccine contained haram substances.
The list of standards for hospitality businesses was released by a local mayor in Aceh, where Islamic criminal law works hand-in-hand with the largely secular laws of Indonesia.
While not legally binding, it illustrates the entanglement of politics and religion in the country, which some say has been exacerbated by President Joko Widodo’s recent appointment of a hardline Islamic cleric as his 2019 presidential running mate.
So what is happening in a country that is one of Australia’s closest neighbours? Has it become more conservatively Islamic?