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Indonesia: Aceh Province Bans Daytime Food Sales During Ramadan

(July 7, 2014) The Wilayatul Hisbah, or Shariah Police, of Aceh Province, an area of Indonesia that applies Islamic law, have forbidden sales of food during the daytime during the month of Ramadan, in which Muslims fast from sunrise to sunset. They have applied the rule from 5 am to 3 pm, and to everyone, not just Muslims. According to Hardy Karmy, the head of the Aceh Shariah police, sales may resume from 4 pm to 8 pm and then again after nighttime prayers and until dawn. (Nurdin Hasan, Aceh Shariah Police Prohibit Daytime Food Sales, Even for Non-Muslims, JAKARTA GLOBE (July 3, 2014).)

To carry out this rule, police seized cooking equipment from a coffee shop that remained open in Peunayong, a section of the provincial capital city of Banda Aceh, on July 3; the owners, who were of Chinese descent, were not Muslims. According to Karmy, all businesses “have to respect Muslims who are fasting.” (Id.) Non-Muslims, including the Aceh Hakka Foundation, a group representing Indonesians of Chinese descent, have opposed the sales ban and complained that even food stalls with signs indicating they would not sell to Muslims during the daytime had to close. (Id.) Kho Khie Siong, head of the Foundation, noted “We respect those who are fasting, and we also respect the Islamic Shariah in Aceh because we have been living here for generations. … We were born and raised in Aceh. We are also Aceh people.” He went on to ask about non-Muslim food vendors, “[i]f they are forced to close down the business for the entire month, how are they going to eat?” (Id.)

Kho further noted that in previous years the ban was not imposed as it has been this year, and he said the Chinese-Indonesians would like to meet with Illiza Sa’aduddin Djamal, the mayor of the Banda Aceh, to discuss the matter. (Id.)

Shariah law has been fully applicable to all residents of Aceh Province, regardless of religious affiliation, since early 2014. Non-Muslims may opt for either a regular or a shariah court for trials involving violations of the national Criminal Code, but all cases of shariah offenses not outlawed in the Code, such as drinking liquor or, for women, not wearing a head scarf, will be heard in shariah court. (Hotli Simanjuntak & Ina Parlina, Aceh Fully Enforces Sharia, JAKARTA POST (Feb. 7, 2014).)