Lhokseumawe, a city in a province of Indonesia that adheres to Islamic law known as 'sharia' has banned women from riding as passengers on motorcycles driven by men. Government offices and residents have received leaflets giving notice of the rule. Mayor Suaidi Yahya of Lhokseumawe said the change in law is to save people's 'morals and behaviors'.
Aceh province, which is the only Indonesia province to adhere to sharia, has received some criticism for the ruling. Mayor Yahya of Lhokseumawe said women will only be allowed to sit side saddle. He claimed that when women straddle the bike seat it violates Islamic values. In an interview with the BBC, he explained "'When you see a woman straddle, she looks like a man. But if she sits side-saddle, she looks like a woman."
The new rule will be examined for at least one month, at which time authorities may change it into a by-law for Aceh province. Mayor Yahya vowed that if women do not adhere to the new rule, they will face punishment. "Once it has become a by-law, automatically there will be sanctions," he said.
Some Muslims have been critical of the ruling. Said Jakarta-based Ulil Abshar Abdalla, "How to ride a motorbike is not regulated in Sharia. There is no mention of it in the Koran or Hadiths."



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Spero News editor Martin Barillas is a former US diplomat, who also worked as a democracy advocate and election observer in Latin America. His first novel 'Shaken Earth', is available at Amazon.

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