Party Poopers

On patrol with the Banda Aceh district religious Police, where new religious extremism is currently on the rise:

A romantic ballad plays on the speakers, while young couples lounge on plastic chairs, in front of makeshift cafes.

Boys in their jeans and some girls in their jilbabs, eating corn on the cob and sipping Coca-Cola.

A picture of harmless, innocent adolescence.

But the party does not last long. The Sharia police are here – and they zero in on their first target. A young boy and girl, sitting too close to one another in the dark.

What happens next would be almost farcical if it was not so humiliating for those involved. The Sharia police surround the couple, demanding to see their identity cards.

The young girl, wearing a bright yellow jilbab, turns away, too embarrassed to speak.

The boy, clean shaven and handsome, tries to explain that they were doing nothing wrong – just hanging out and talking, but is cut short by one of the men in charge.

They are told to get out of the dark and leave the beachfront. It is late and they should not be out at night – especially since they are unmarried and not related to one another by blood.

“Under our laws, an unmarried man and woman who sit alone together in the dark are immoral,” Zaki Almubarak tells me.

“To prevent them from committing adultery, we stop them.”

The penalty for adultery is to be stoned to death. We can be thankful that the religious Police are there to prevent these poor kids from endangering their lives.