Caretakers of a mosque in the city of Meulaboh, Aceh cut down 10 pine trees that were planted just outside the house of worship’s front fence. Their religiously motivated reason for doing that has caused quite a backlash even in the conservative province.
The trees were cut down on January 7. Anwar, the mosque’s head caretaker, said that they cut down the trees because they were obscuring the view of the mosque from the adjacent road and that the trees weren’t properly maintained. In addition, he said they were cut down because they resembled Christmas trees (the holiday symbol is cut down conifers, after all).
Azhar, a member of the West Aceh Regency Council, heavily criticized the cutting down of the trees, especially the Christmas trees resemblance excuse, which, to him, made no sense.
“In that case why don’t we hack down all the pine trees in West Aceh? How much has been budgeted all this time to maintain those trees only for them to be thrown away just like that?” Azhar said, as quoted by Tribun yesterday
Azhar added that before they were cut down, the trees provided shade for street vendors and cars parked near them.
The city’s Environment Agency also denied the mosque caretakers’ claim that the trees hadn’t been properly maintained.
“All this time, the trees in Meulaboh have been maintained. We have budgeted IDR7 million (US$525) per year for their trimming and IDR15 million (US$1,125) for fertilizer,” said head of the Meulaboh Environment Agency, Adi Yunanda.
Adi added that the mosque caretakers unilaterally came up with the decision to cut down the trees — which were public property — but did not mention any possible sanctions for them.
Aceh is the only province in Indonesia given regional autonomy to enforce Islamic sharia law. The province has been criticized for systemic human rights abuses, including public floggings for alleged adulterers and those suspected of homosexuality.