In Pasar Rakyat, a market in Meulaboh in Indonesia's West Aceh, a young woman busily browses through a rack of skirts. She is wearing a loose, long skirt, a tight, long-sleeved T-shirt and a jilbab that comes up to her chest. She analyzes the material of the skirts, touching them to feel the texture.
“I have to replace my clothes with skirts and Muslim outfits [that are long-sleeved and loose],” 20-year-old Rahma said last Tuesday. “I don’t want to be arrested by the Wilayatul Hisbah [Shariah police] when they really implement the new law.”
The district of West Aceh will begin enforcing a new regulation in January that will strictly forbid Muslims, especially women, to wear tight clothes. M Nur Juned, head of West Aceh district’s Shariah division, said in a telephone interview with the Jakarta Globe on Thursday that authorities would regulate the clothes that people were allowed to wear.
“For women, the clothes should not be skintight, see-through, show the contours of their bodies or be boyish. The jilbab should be long so it can cover their chest,” he said. “Women can still wear trousers as long as they are not tight.
“As for men, they can’t wear shorts when they are out in public. And they can’t dress up like a woman, either. Allah hates such a thing.”
Juned said that in 2008, the West Aceh government had advised Muslims in the area regarding their manner of dressing.
“We [the district-level office] circulated letters to subdistrict offices on how people should dress. But since this was only an appeal and there were no sanctions, people didn’t take it seriously,” he said. “We decided to make it more serious by issuing this new regulation.”