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Jakarta Post

National Police backtracks on Islamic headscarf policy

  • Yuliasri Perdani

    The Jakarta Post

Jakarta | Tue, December 3 2013 | 10:01 am

The National Police is now reconsidering their policy of allowing female officers to wear the Islamic headscarf, or hijab, on duty.

In a confidential internal telegram signed by National Police deputy chief Comr. Gen. Oegroseno on Nov. 28, female members of the force were ordered to stop wearing the headscarf to work until the National Police had issued a regulation on the new type of uniform.

Oegroseno said on Monday that the decision was made after learning that female members of the police had worn scarves of different colors and designs with their official uniforms.

'€œThe wearing of the hijab by policewomen '€” from Aceh, to Bengkulu and Papua '€” must be based on a written regulation. Thus, we should wait for a National Police chief regulation on the uniform hijab,'€ Oegroseno said at the Air Police Corps headquarters in South Tangerang, Banten.

The deputy police chief said that the new uniform would likely be very simple.

'€œPersonally, I prefer policewomen to wear a long, one-piece uniform that covers their bodies from head to toe, and not a body-hugging uniform that would arouse the opposite sex,'€ he said.

Scores of female police personnel started wearing the headscarf on Nov. 22, two days after National Police chief Gen. Sutarman issued a verbal order lifting the 2005 regulation that had prohibited officers from wearing it.

Female police officers in Aceh were excluded from the regulation, given the province'€™s 2001 Islamic bylaws that oblige all women to cover their hair.

Sutarman had previously said that he had no plan to formalize the new ruling into a decree, as it would carry a responsibility for the National Police to provide new uniforms for officers who opted to wear the Muslim garb.

But some policewomen have already spent their own cash to purchase headscarves to match their uniform, swapping their short-sleeved shirts and knee-length skirts for long-sleeved shirts and long pants.

Sutarman has said that he is not happy with how his new policy has played out.

'€œI ordered the suspension after seeing that some policewomen were wearing a red hijab, white hijab, while others wore a hijab with a different combination of colors. It is not beautiful at all,'€ he said.

Some Muslim figures, the National Police Commission ( Kompolnas ) and Indonesian Police Watch ( IPW ) lambasted the National Police for the suspension of the new headscarf policy.

Kompolnas member Hamidah Abdurrahman said that the National Police'€™s inconsistency over the hijab had created confusion among policewomen.

'€œThe National Police should have acted more wisely. Instead of temporarily banning the hijab, the National Police could have ordered policewomen to wear a hijab similar to those that their colleagues in Aceh wear,'€ she said on Monday.

Some policewomen shared their concerns over the suspension of the policy.

'€œWe felt uncomfortable taking off the hijab. It feels that [we] face many challenges in performing our duty and covering our bodies,'€ one policewoman, Arisma Hery Dian, said on Monday.

The National Police currently have 20,000 female members, representing only 5 percent of the force'€™s 400,000 personnel.

According to the IPW, policewomen have little impact on the decision-making processes in the force as most of them are assigned to low-level desk jobs or act as public relations agents to appear on live news programs on national television.

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