Aceh is the only province in Indonesia given special autonomy to implement sharia-based laws. Leaning towards the conservative side of Islam, Aceh enforces a strict dress-code, with women usually being on the receiving end of discriminative laws that require them to wear hijab (headscarves) and prohibits clothing such as jeans.
For the recent Aceh Provincial Games, which was held in Jantho City, Aceh Besar Regency, one event attracted a bit of a fashion-related religious controversy.
The Games, which ended last Sunday, featured a race in which athletes wore regular running attire. But that didn’t go well with Aceh Besar Vice Regent Waled Husaini, who branded the athletes’ attire as too revealing as they revealed the women’s aurat (parts of the body that should be kept covered for the sake of modesty in Islam).
Husaini, who seems to be someone who’s really hardcore when it comes to implementing the region’s conservative laws (this is a guy who recently stormed into food stalls during lunchtime, screaming at patrons who chose to have lunch instead of doing the dhuhr prayer first), said he’s afraid the runners’ revealing clothing might draw God’s wrath.
The “curse” Husaini was referring to was likely divine punishment in the form of natural disasters. There has been quite a bit of paranoid talk about God’s wrath in Indonesia since the deadly Palu earthquake-tsunami in late September, resulting in several instances of religious groups and government officials talking about putting an end to traditional rituals they fear could be considered shirk (idolatry) that could result in divine judgement and disaster.
Husaini added that he was disappointed because he had put out instructions regarding modest clothing for athletes at the Games.
Ridwan Jamil, a member of the Games’ organizing committee, conceded that they weren’t able to supervise every sporting event but the organizers responsible for the race were already given warnings. He added that organizers did not have any intention to tarnish the reputation of the Aceh Besar regency.
This is not the first fashion controversy for a running event in Aceh. Earlier this year, few people wanted to sign up for the Aceh International Marathon after rumors emerged that female runners would have to wear hijabs while male runners would have to wear turbans. Aceh’s governor publicly denied the rumors in order to attract more participants.