A number of Islamic and youth organisations in the Acehnese city of Lhokseumawe have objected to the national-level U-17 Women's Soccer Tournament being held in Lhokseumawe because they believe the event is contrary to syariat Islam (Islamic law) in Aceh.
Responding to the issue, Ulama Consultative Assembly (MPU, an assembly of Islamic clerics in Aceh) Deputy Chairperson Tgk Faisal Ali even says that it is haram (forbidden under Islamic law) for women to play the sport, particularly in Aceh.
He believes that women's soccer is taboo and not in accordance with local wisdom and syariat Islam which is in force in Aceh.
"Given the general atmosphere in the region (Aceh) women playing soccer is haram under law", said Ali when sought for confirmation on July 5.
The character and culture of Acehnese society, said Ali, generally sees soccer as something that is played by men, and it is not good if it is played by women. So, the MUP does not want to give women in Aceh the opportunity to play soccer.
Haram under law, explained Ali, does not just apply to women but also applies to men who play without covering their aurat (parts of the body that should not be seen in public according to Islam). Especially given that women playing soccer could reveal parts of their bodies which would be seen by everyone.
Ali does not deny that women play soccer in other parts of the country. Because, he said, each region has its own regulations and culture. For regions that apply syariat Islam such as Aceh, it is haram for women to play soccer.
"Perhaps it is different to other parts of the country, soccer in other areas is sometimes played on closed fields, with a woman umpire, women line referees, with an all women audience, and there is no outside access. But not with us (the Acehnese), we're not yet ready for that yet", he said.
Aceh government Protocol and Public Relations Bureau head Rahmad Raden expressed a similar view saying that there are no regulations allowing soccer for women in Aceh.
"We're a region with syariat Islam, right, there's no need to have every kind of sport in Aceh", he said. In relation to an official circular on the matter, Raden said that so far the government has not issued such an appeal.
[Translated by James Balowski. The original title of the article was "Ulama Haramkan Sepakbola Wanita di Aceh".]