PHOTOS: Morality police

Keeping Aceh on the straight and narrow

On the beat with the morality police in Aceh, Indoniesia, the only province in the world's most populous Muslim nation to employ Sharia, or Islamic law, for its criminal code.

Photography by Luis Sinco / Los Angeles Times

ROLL CALL: Sharia police officers report for roll call before taking to the streets of Banda Aceh, Indonesia, in search of individuals breaking strict Islamic codes of public behavior. Mostly they stop and lecture women for not being modestly covered up in public and scold unmarried couples for improper contact with members of the opposite sex.

READY FOR DUTY: The Sharia police prepare to patrol the streets of Banda Aceh, the capital of Indonesia's Aceh province. The force is known as "the vice and virtue patrol." In Aceh, these officers consider themselves the community's public conscience. And they take their role of enforcing the religious strictures seriously.

MOVING OUT: Officers of the Sharia police climb aboard their patrol vehicle as they set off in Banda Aceh, Indonesia, in search of individuals violating strict Islamic codes of public behavior. Aceh's provincial parliament recently passed a law under which married people who commit adultery can be stoned to death. Authorities also toughened public caning laws, which call for additional lashes for gays, pedophiles and gamblers.

ON PATROL: Sharia police officers patrol a beach area in Banda Aceh, Indonesia, looking for individuals who engage in what is deemed to be indecent public behavior.

DRESS VIOLATION: The Sharia police stop three veiled teenage girls at a beach in Banda Aceh, Indonesia, a city where Islamic religious codes of public behavior are strictly enforced. The girls' crime: wearing tights. They were told to go home immediately and change into proper attire.

BUSTED: Syafruddin, center, the operations commander of the Sharia police in Banda Aceh, Indonesia, lectures a couple for what he deemed to be indecent public behavior. Their offense: sitting too closely together while on an outing at the beach. "We want to see how far this relationship has progressed," he said, adding that he intended to launch an investigation. "What they were doing could have led to something sexual."

EVENING PRAYERS Muslim women enter the Grand Mosque in Banda Aceh, Indonesia, for the start of evening prayers. Many Indonesian Muslims are moderates, and some worry that Sharia law will discourage much-needed foreign investment in an area hit hard by the 2004 tsunami.

WORSHIP: Muslim women attend evening prayers at the Grand Mosque in Banda Aceh, Indonesia.

GRAND MOSQUE: The elegant Grand Mosque is the center of Muslim life in Banda Aceh, Indonesia, where residents live under Sharia, or Islamic law.

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