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Aceh cancels New Year parties

Indonesia's only province implementing Shariah says its ban on celebrations will be enforced even more strictly this year

Aceh cancels New Year parties

Shariah police officers escort a 21-year-old Muslim woman for public caning after being caught in close proximity with her boyfriend in Banda Aceh in this Oct. 29 file photo. Aceh is the only province in the world's most populous Muslim-majority country that imposes Shariah and people can be flogged for a range of offences from gambling, to drinking alcohol to having gay sex or relations outside of marriage. (Photo by Chaideer Mahyuddin/AFP)

Aceh, the only province in Indonesia that applies Shariah, says its traditional ban on New Year's Eve celebrations will be enforced more strictly this year, including in hotels.

Aminullah Usman, mayor of Banda Aceh, the provincial capital, said letters have been sent out warning people "not to hold parties, set off fireworks, and blow horns" on New Year's Eve.

"These practices are not in accordance with Islamic Shariah law," he said on Dec. 18.

"Muslims have their own special celebration, which is the Hijri New Year," he added.

This year the Hijri New Year fell on Sept. 11.

He said, although the ban has existed for the past few years, this year it will be enforced more firmly.

"There are no exceptions. Hotels are prohibited from holding any kind of event. For those who violate the policy, we will revoke their permits," he said.

He said the policy is part of an effort to uphold Islamic Shariah values, strengthen the unity of religious peoples and to uphold peace, safety and order.

However, Usman said, they would allow religious activities for non-Muslims, including Christians who can hold Masses.

"We allow this, but they cannot conduct celebrations, especially in public spaces," he said.

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A Catholic woman in Banda Aceh who spoke on condition of anonymity told ucanews.com they would abide by the directive.

"Partying is not the most important part of New Year celebrations. We will celebrate it at home," she said.

Bambang Pramusinto, general manager of the Kyriad Muraya Hotel in Banda Aceh said they would obey the order.

"Regretfully we will not hold any events," he said.

Last year, many guests complained because there were no celebrations at the hotel, but they understood after being told it was a government directive.

Since Shariah was imposed, the Aceh government has introduced bylaws unique to that part of Indonesia.

In 2015, the local government prohibited cafes from serving women after 9pm or those without a male chaperone.

Last month, village leaders in Bireuen district banned Wi-Fi at coffee shops over fears that youngsters were being distracted from their studies, daily Islamic prayers, and Quran recital sessions.

In a report released early this month, the Setara Institute for Democracy and Peace, a prominent religious freedom advocacy group ranked Banda Aceh, Jakarta, and Tanjung Balai in North Sumatra as Indonesia's most intolerant cities.

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