The Dark Light of Aceh Tourism Thanks to Sharia…

The public whipping of a gay couple last week in Aceh is certainly bringing bad publicity to the most northern Province of Sumatra. Except for fanatics…

Being gay should normally be a private matter with no interference of political or religious authorities as long as it does not attend to the safety, security of the country. Although, it can be understood that some citizens disapprove of homosexual behaviour, the use of violence to banish it should be highly condemned.

Aceh is the only province in Indonesia to apply sharia law. Caning is not only done on gay couple -as it was the case for two local men being flagged 85 times each last week- but also for unmarried couples. The kind of medieval  corporal punishment, closer to what can be observed in Afghanistan or in the Islamic State than in the rest of Indonesia, could just generate condemnation from most people. However, it also attracts to Aceh some tourists with the morbid curiosity to see caning applied in public.

According to online publication “Coconuts Jakarta”, they are dozens of Malaysian tourists going to Aceh to ‘enjoy’ this kind of event. Coconuts reported that in March, tourists came by bus to visit the Lamteh Mosque in Banda Aceh to witness a dozen people getting publicly caned for crimes ranging from gambling to ikhtilat (the intermingling of men and women who are not married).

The group was conducted opposition PAS senator Dato Dr Johari bin Mat, a very conservative movement. The man declared to Indonesian magazine Kompas News that “it was his first time witnessing live caning in Aceh after watching a video of it taken by a friend who visited the region earlier”.

But he added that sharia caning in Aceh, which is similar to how it is implemented in Malaysia, is not meant to inflict physical harm on offenders. It is aimed at making them “repent for their mistakes and ask God for forgiveness”, he said to the publication…

Aceh tourism late last year created a new slogan for the province, “The Light of Aceh”. They just forgot to put “Dark” in front of “Light”.