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Jakarta Post

Banda Aceh bans New Year'€™s Eve celebrations

  • Hotli Simanjuntak and Syofiardi Bachyul Jb

    The Jakarta Post

Banda Aceh/Padang   /   Tue, December 29, 2015   /  06:11 pm
Banda Aceh bans New Year'€™s Eve celebrations Harsh punishment: A sharia official beats an offender who violated sharia with a cane at the Ule Lheue Mosque in Banda Aceh, Aceh, on Monday.(JP/Hotli Simanjuntak) (JP/Hotli Simanjuntak)

Harsh punishment: A sharia official beats an offender who violated sharia with a cane at the Ule Lheue Mosque in Banda Aceh, Aceh, on Monday.(JP/Hotli Simanjuntak)

As holiday-makers and party-goers across the nation prepare to enjoy the upcoming New Year'€™s Eve festivities, one regional administration has banned people from celebrating.

The Banda Aceh city administration prohibited its residents from celebrating the changing of the year as such celebrations are not considered to be in accordance with the prevailing Islamic Law.

'€œCelebrating New Year is haram [forbidden] in Islam because it is not Islamic culture,'€ Banda Aceh Deputy Regent Zainal Arifin claimed.

The majority of Banda Aceh'€™s population is Muslim, Arifin said, adding that it was forbidden for them to celebrate non-Islamic culture in the capital of the only province that implements sharia.

To help disseminate the ban, he explained that the city administration and the city'€™s leaders had distributed the required information to various parties, ranging from administration offices to coffee kiosks across Banda Aceh.

The ban, he said, also applied to preaching or dzikr activities conducted on the eve of the New Year, not just to mass gatherings, fireworks and firecrackers, trumpet blowing, partying and barbecues.

Many expressed support for the ban but some, including Yudiansyah of Ulee Lhueue, questioned why the ban had been applied. '€œThe New Year celebration has nothing to do with religious ritual. This is just the change of year. Why should it be banned?'€ he said.

Meanwhile, the Agam regency administration in West Sumatra has planned to close all tourist attractions in the region that are frequently used as venues for New Year'€™s Eve celebrations and to raid hotels and homestays on the eve of the New Year.

Head of Agam Culture and Tourism Agency, Hadi Suryadi, said that the policy had been made in anticipation of and to protect the regency from immoral activities and other social diseases that may be committed during New Year'€™s Eve celebrations.

Agam, he said, was religious, preserved, just, independent and beautiful as is stipulated in its vision. According to the philosophy of the Basandi Syarak and Syarak Basandi Kitabullah customs, Agam was rich in religious piety.

'€œSo, before people cause trouble, we shall prevent them from committing immoral acts,'€ Hadi told The Jakarta Post on Monday.

He said that five tourist objects would be closed on the New Year'€™s Eve, including Bandar Mutiara beach in Tiku, Muko-Muko Park, Ambun Tanai, Puncak Lawang and Lawang Park in Maninjau. These annual New Year'€™s Eve closures have been carried out for the last three years.

'€œThis year we have called on the respective management to close down each of the five locations from 4:31 p.m. on Dec. 31, 2015 to 7 a.m. the following day,'€ Hadi said.

The closure, he claimed, had no economic impact on the region nor on local people but, if left open, the negative impact could be significant. Religion, according to him, teaches that if immorality is freely committed, God'€™s punishment will come.

For hotels, he said, no ban on New Year'€™s Eve celebrations was to be applied as long as events were conducted without causing a fray. However, hotels have been reminded not to allow unmarried couples to stay. '€œWe will conduct raids on the eve of the New Year'€, he emphasized.

Agam is home to two star-rated hotels offering a total of 112 rooms and 28 homestays with some 100 rooms on offer.

M. Zuhrizul of Lawang Adventure Park expressed support for the ban, saying that different regions had different characteristics in managing their tourism industry within the context of local wisdom.

He also said that his side was not afraid of the planned raid because such raids are frequently conducted there.

A different response was expressed by the chairman of the Indonesian Hotel and Restaurant Association'€™s (PHRI) Bukittinggi branch, Syafroni Falian. The branch previously oversaw Agam, but Agam is currently in the process of developing its own branch.

Syafroni regrets Agam'€™s policy, arguing that the New Year'€™s Eve momentum was a chance for tourism industry growth and could also act as a support to small-scale businesses.

'€œIt would be better for the local Culture and Tourism Agency to replace celebrations with traditional entertainment and increase security so as to prevent negative things from being committed,'€ he said.

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