The Jakarta Post
Administrative and Bureaucratic Reform Minister Tjahjo Kumolo has banned employees of the ministry from wearing niqab at the office, reasserting his stance that all staff must abide by the rules.
“Wearing niqab is not allowed in my [office]. If [women] want to wear niqab outside the office, that’s OK, as citizens [they are] free to do that,” Tjahjo said in Yogyakarta as quoted by Antara news agency.
He acknowledged that people had the right to choose their own attire, including face-covering veils, however, the regulations of offices should be respected.
“We have white uniforms in the ministry [to be worn daily]. We also have civil servant uniforms [to be worn] on national days, as well as other attire,” Tjahjo said, “In my opinion, when at work, it’s better not to wear niqab. Just wear it outside the office.”
The Indonesian Democratic Party of Struggle (PDI-P) politician’s statement came following controversy that arose after Religious Affairs Minister Fachrul Razi suggested banning niqab from being worn in government offices, citing security reasons.
Fachrul’s proposal triggered mixed responses from state officials and politicians and stirred debate between those who supported the idea for security purposes and those who were against it on the grounds that the ban would curtail religious freedom.
The religious affairs minister has since backtracked on his statement, saying that his office had never considered issuing a regulation to recommend a ban on full-face veils in government offices.
The use of niqab among Muslim women has never been considered mainstream Islamic practice in Indonesia. Coupled with a stigma that linked the face-covering veil with radicalism, many of those wearing niqab are subject to prejudice.
Religious debate aside, human rights activists have asserted that wearing niqab is part of exercising religious freedom and therefore should be protected.
National Commission on Human Rights (Komnas HAM) commissioner Munafrizal Manan said banning the use niqab for civil servants, albeit on the grounds of security reasons, violated civil liberties.
"We will see whether or not [the ban] will be concretely enforced, [but] in principle, anything related to [curtailing] someone's civil liberties should not be imposed so easily," he said. (gis)