Posted by: mel | September 2, 2009

Food stals, cafes ‘for non-Muslims’ remain open in sharia-ruled Aceh

Jakarta Post | Hotli Simanjuntak ,  Banda Aceh | Headlines |  2 September 2009  

An announcement which reads “Only non-Muslims allowed” is attached to the door of a food stall in Peunayong, Banda Aceh, the only province in the country which has implemented sharia law.

Stall owners, dominated by members of the Indonesian-Chinese community, close their doors most of the way so as not to draw attention. “This stall serves non-Muslim residents who are not fasting. Anyone can come in as long as there are not Muslim,” said Acun, who owns the stall.

He said dozens of stalls and cafes serve food and drinks to residents of Banda Aceh who are not fasting for Ramadan. The food stalls are usually open only from morning until noon.

The street where the stall is located, Jl. Lorong Sayur, is behind a market in Peunayong, a trading center where the Indonesian-Chinese community dominates.

“The market existed before Aceh implemented sharia law. It is home mostly to Indonesian-Chinese residents, but people from other ethnic groups come and buy goods at the market,” Acun said.

Although the market only serves non-Muslims during Ramadan, many residents come to the market to buy groceries.

Usually stall owners warn local first-time visitors that stalls in the market are only open for non-Muslims.

“But if they insist on entering and eating here, we cannot say anything. The most important thing is that we have informed them,” Acun said.

The Wilayatul Hisbah sharia police often conduct raids in the market.

Every day during Ramadan the sharia police patrol areas of Banda Aceh considered to be prone to violations of sharia law.

“We often monitor and observe the conditions here. However, as long as they do not sell food openly to the public, we will tolerate them. They should not open their food stalls widely,” Wilayatul Hisbah chief Efendi said.

Stalls selling snacks and side dishes before magrib (when Muslims break their fast) are subjected to the raids.

“Under the regulations, food can only be sold at 4 p.m., in the lead up to the breaking of the fast. We will take stern action and seize the merchandise of those caught selling before the specified time,” Efendi said, adding that those who continue to violate the bylaws will have their licenses revoked.

Efendi said the sharia police has already reprimanded hundreds of food sellers, as well as Muslims caught eating, just 10 days into Ramadan.

However, he said that his institution was not authorized to mete out punishment, but was limited to the powers of persuasion.

Around 99 percent of Aceh’s population are Muslim. Based on official data from the Banda Aceh Municipality, 3,289 of the 216,340 residents in Banda Aceh are non-Muslims, 2,316 of whom are members of the Indonesian-Chinese community.

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