CAIRO - Seeking to win voter support in the conservative Indonesian province, Acehnese candidates are using Islamic Shari`ah as their main theme of campaigning for next month's regional elections.
The implementation of Islamic Shari`ah in Aceh has not been as well as expected, Ahmad Tajudin, an independent gubernatorial candidate from the Islamic boarding school told The Jakarta Post on Sunday, March 25.
We have to uphold the truth and destroy evil before conducting other programs.
Aceh, located on the northern tip of Sumatra Island, is to go to vote on April 9, to elect a new governor.
To woo voters, candidates have promised a better implementation of Islamic Shari`ah in the province.
Ahmad, a scholar, said he would work to strengthen the role of Ulema (scholars) in the province.
Strengthening the position of Ulemas is one of the major ways for Aceh to advance, he said.
Those Ulema can contribute in various fields, such as economy and culture based on the appropriate implementation of Shari`ah.
We will return to the golden days of Aceh as a prosperous region which was known due to the past glory of Islam.
Aceh is gradually implementing Shari`ah under a broad autonomy package granted by the central government in 2001 to pacify demands for independence.
It also has a religious police force whose task is overseeing Islamic regulations on dress, alcohol, gambling and immoral acts.
In Islam, Shari`ah govern issues in Muslims' lives from daily prayers to fasting and from to inheritance and marital cases to financial disputes.
The Islamic rulings, however, do not apply on non-Muslims, even if in a dispute with non-Muslims.
Other Acehnese candidates are promising development programs based on Islamic Shari`ah.
During my term as a governor, I comprehensively implemented free school tuition and free health services, said former governor Irwandi.
I want to continue improving the program, said Irwandi, whose electoral program includes free school tuition, health services, improvement of infrastructure development and realignment of the government apparatus.
Other candidates are offering a better quality of education for university students.
So far, nearly all scholarships use state money. It's time now to change this so as not to burden the public, said Darni Daud, former rector of Syiah Kuala University in Aceh.
Despite the pledges, some voters are only concerned about the peaceful atmosphere of the vote.
I don't care about the programs, said Syarifudin, a resident of Lhoong, Aceh Besar.
I just want the election to be carried out peacefully.