Banda Aceh. In a move criticized as an insult to the dignity of women, an Aceh district speaker has called for the replacement of a female subdistrict head, arguing that women were unfit to lead under Islamic law.
Ridwan Muhammad, the Bireuen district council chairman, said on Thursday that the move against Anisah, head of Plimbang subdistrict, was prompted by complaints from the public.
“It’s what the people and the clerics … are calling for,” he told the Jakarta Globe.
“According to Shariah, a woman is prohibited from becoming a leader.” Ridwan said Anisah’s appointment as subdistrict chief in April had caused a rift in the community, “with one side supporting her and the other against her.”
The council had received petitions from both camps, he said. “Rather than allow this rift to lead to social unrest, we’ve asked the district head to replace Anisah,” he said.
“I’ll admit she’s deft and quite competent, but in order to avoid riots, we advise that she be replaced immediately,” Ridwan said.
He added that the Bireuen district council had already met with the district head, Nurdin Abdul Rahman, to discuss the issue.
“Nurdin didn’t make any decision during the meeting; perhaps he needs more time to consider it,” Ridwan said.
Nurdin could not be reached for comment. Meanwhile, Anisah said most of the criticism directed at her had come from two district councilors from the Aceh Party, which dominates the local legislature, who objected to a female subdistrict head.
Ridwan is also from the Aceh Party. “They’ve raised the issue in their Friday prayer sermons at mosques, which is what provoked the people,” she said, declining to name the councilors.
“Perhaps they’re unaware that a subdistrict head isn’t a leadership post, but only an extension of the district administration’s authority,” Anisah said.
She claimed that Nurdin had encouraged her to stay.
Evi Narti Zain, executive director of the human rights coalition HAM Aceh, said Ridwan’s move discriminated against women and was a violation of basic human rights.
“He has also insulted the dignity of women as a whole,” she said, calling for his dismissal.
Evi pointed out that Aceh itself had been ruled by successive female sultans in the 19th century.