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Mandatory hijab at state schools stirs debate

  •  Gisela Swaragita
    Gisela Swaragita

    The Jakarta Post

Jakarta | Sun, July 29, 2018 | 12:14 pm
Mandatory hijab at state schools stirs debate Many argue the rule is not discrimination because it applies only to Muslims. (Shutterstock/-)

Twitter users are divided in responding to women’s rights activist Tunggal Prawesti's recent post about SMP 4 state junior high school in Tangerang, Banten, which made donning hijab mandatory for Muslim female students. 

In the post, she shared images of the school’s circular that stipulates Muslim girls attending the school should wear long uniforms and headscarves printed with the school’s logo on Thursdays and Fridays. The punishment for those rejecting the rule would be expulsion.

Tunggal posted the tweet on Friday, with the post having been retweeted more than 800 times as of Saturday afternoon. 

Among the many responses she received was a circular stipulating a similar rule at SMP 137 state junior high school in Jakarta, which she reposted.

Tunggal told The Jakarta Post on Saturday that she had received many replies and direct messages reporting similar rules in state schools across the country. The rules were announced in either official circulars or in classrooms by teachers as moral guidance.

“This kind of coercion should never be tolerated, especially when [the students were] threatened to be expelled,” she said over the phone.

“There are many principles violated here. These are public schools [which are] subsidized by the state. Schools should never give sanctions to things that are outside its authority,” she said. “Hijab is all about an individual’s faith.”

Among Twitter users who responded was a woman who wears a headscarf with the username @ranirbi, who agreed with Tunggal. She wrote “If a girl is forced to wear hijab, she would think of hijab as a burden and thus will not get the essentials of [wearing] hijab.”

 

Many others did not agree with Tunggal, saying the school was not discriminating because the rule was only applicable to Muslim female students.

Another headscarf-wearing Twitter user, @MutiaraAzk, wrote “What is the problem? For faithful Muslims, hijab is obligatory. Maybe we should criticize the sanction, instead of hijab. But, if we think further, which one is worse: earthly sanctions or afterlife sanctions? Why do you have to be told to wear hijab?”

 

Another user, @cimminimy, said she wore hijab at school because she did not want to stand out among other students who mostly wore headscarves.

“Because Muslim girls without headscarves are the minority, I decided to make a new uniform set and wear hijab. Not because I received a [spiritual] revelation,” she said.

 

Sely Martini, an Indonesia Corruption Watch (ICW) activist who was among the first to find out about the rule, said the case pertained to state intervention on the bodies of women.  

As a woman who wore a headscarf faithfully, she said the school rule was coercion.

“Please teach women to take care of their bodies because she and only she is the one who has the authority to decide what is done to her body. Please teach your men [sons, fathers, brothers] to respect women’s bodies and stop viewing a woman’s body as an object,” she said. (evi)

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