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Jakarta Post

Aceh village leaders issue circular on Wi-Fi ban at cafes

  • Apriadi Gunawan

    The Jakarta Post

Medan   /   Mon, November 26, 2018   /   10:21 am
Aceh village leaders issue circular on Wi-Fi ban at cafes A santri carries a Quran on his head on his way to the mosque. (JP/Sigit Pamungkas)

Village leaders of Curee Baroh in Simpang Mamplam district, Bireun regency, Aceh, have issued a circular that calls on all cafes to remove access to free Wi-Fi, which they have blamed for distracting children from their studies and Quran recital sessions.

The circular, the sharia-abiding province’s first, was issued on Nov. 13 as a result of discussions among village officials who have attributed the low interest in studying and reciting the Quran to the fact that more young people are crowding such hangout spots.

“We have delivered the circular to the cafe owners so that they can cut the Wi-Fi connection,” said Curee Baroh village head Helmiadi Mukhtaruddin.

The village leaders said they found that children and teenagers in the area went to cafes during school hours and claimed some opened sites containing pornography. 

“There is a growing concern about Wi-Fi access. We have six cafes in the village and it is getting harder for parents and teachers to control the children,” said Helmiadi.

He said children often left home telling their parents that they would attend Quran recital sessions at mosques or musholla (prayer rooms), but they actually went to cafes and surfed the internet. 

Despite upholding regional autonomy principles, sharia implementation in Aceh has been condemned and criticized over alleged human rights violations.

Previously, the Bireun administration was criticized for issuing a circular asking coffee shops, cafes and restaurants to ensure that male and female customers who are not married or related to one another do not sit at the same table together.

The circular is meant to serve as a guideline for business owners to abide by sharia, which prohibits khalwat (physical displays of affection between unmarried couples).

Bireun Communications and Information Agency head M. Zubair said many cafes in the regency now provided Wi-Fi access to visitors, and only in Curee Baroh was it now denounced. He said the regency administration respected the village’s decision. 

“We support the Wi-Fi ban as long as it benefits the young generation,” Zubair told The Jakarta Post on Saturday. 

He said the village regulation did not contravene higher law in the regency and allowed other villages to follow suit. He, however, said there would be no legal consequences for ignoring the circular. 

“[The circular] has no legal consequences. But, ideally, residents should comply with the circular,” said Zubair.

The circular came along with the village leaders’ statement conveying their commitment to eradicate drug trafficking, especially for crystal metaphetamine and marijuana.

Bireun Sharia Agency head Jufliwan said he had yet to receive the village circular, but he said he basically supported any regulation that was in line with sharia implementation in Aceh.

“But it does not benefit [the residents]; there is no need to issue the ban,” he said.

This article was originally published in The Jakarta Post's print edition on Nov. 26, 2018, with the title "Aceh village leaders issue circular on Wi-Fi ban at cafes".