Agus Setyadi, Banda Aceh – Aceh's religious leaders (ulama) believe that there is no need to build cinemas in Tanah Rencong – as Aceh is known – and that cinemas are not something which have any benefit.
"I don't think that there's anyone, anywhere who's interested in this. We in Aceh see that cinemas are not something which have any benefit, so I feel that (in Aceh) there's no need to build any cinemas", said Aceh Ulema Consultative Assembly (MPU) Deputy Chairperson Teungku Faisal Ali when sought for confirmation by journalists on Monday January 6.
Lem Faisal, as he is known by friends, believes that there are still many other forms of entertainment in Aceh. He also believes that Minister for Religious Affairs Fachrul Razi's comparison of Aceh with Jeddah over the issue of cinemas does not have any substance.
"So I don't think there's any substance to the religious affairs minister comparing Aceh with Jeddah. So for us in Aceh, it's not certain that everything [they do] in other parts of the country, other countries, are compatible with us, it's not certain", explained Ali.
The Banda Aceh municipal government is waiting on the Aceh MPU's blessings before reopening cinemas in Indonesia's western-most province.
The Banda Aceh government will also conduct a study first on the presence of cinemas in the province, including looking at the operation of cinemas in advanced and Islamic countries.
"So after that we will come to an agreement with the MPU. If their position is that it's okay, I'm okay about it and don't have a problem", Banda Aceh Mayor Aminullah Usman explained to journalists at the Banda Aceh Town Hall on Monday January 6.
Currently, the Gateway of Mecca – as Aceh is known – is the only part of Indonesia which does not have any cinemas. Although there are still buildings left over which were formally used as cinemas such as the Garuda Theatre in Banda Aceh.
Currently however, the building is being used as the Banda Aceh Information Technology Learning Center (ITLC). Many cinemas in Aceh were destroyed during the December 26, 2004 tsunami. Although in fact the glory days of cinemas in Banda Aceh were already over when Aceh was placed under a state of martial law in 2002.
Prior to this, there were a number of cinemas in Banda Aceh such as the Pas 21 on the second floor above the Atjeh Market, the Gajah Theater in the Simpang Lima area, the Jelita Cinema in Beurawe as well as the Garuda Theatre on Jl Imam Bonjol in Kampung Baru.
Cinemas in Tanah Rencong, like other places, played the latest films and male and female members of the audience were not seated separately.
Banda Aceh resident Rizal (40) hopes that the Banda Aceh municipal government will reopen cinemas in the provincial capital because many Acehnese people have to leave the province in order to watch films.
"We hope there will be cinemas again. The concept can be brought in line with Syariat Islam [Islamic law]. Our concept can be returned to the government", said Rizal.
Earlier, the Banda Aceh municipal government said that it would draft a qanun (bylaw) if there were any investors who wanted to build a cinema in Kutaraja area.
The qanun being drafted will use as a reference Islamic countries which have cinemas such Brunei Darussalam and Arab Saudi which have long had places for people to watch films.
The Banda Aceh government wants to look at the operation of cinemas in other countries as reference should they decide to build cinemas in Tanah Rencong. This is so the cinemas don't conflict with Syariat Islam.
"If later there is a discussion with investors about building a cinema we will draft a qanun first. So as not to preempt it", Usman told Detik.com after appearing as a guest on the program "The Major Responds" at the mayor's audience hall on Tuesday September 17, 2019. (jbr/gbr)
[Translated by James Balowski. The original title of the article was "Bioskop di Aceh Ditolak Ulama".]