Central Lombok regency in West Nusa Tenggara is set to require female Muslim civil servants to wear the niqab, as some of them have been seen not wearing masks -- one of the health protocols imposed amid the COVID-19 pandemic.
Regent Moh Suhaili Fadhil Thohir announced the plan during a regular Friday gymnastics event in the regent's office yard on June 19, which was recorded in a video that has since become the subject of public discussion.
“I said it spontaneously because during the Friday event, some refused to wear a mask for fear of running out of oxygen. But considering the current situation, we need protection,” he said on Wednesday.
Suhaili said the requirement for Muslims to wear the niqab had nothing to do with radicalism as it was simply an effort to prevent virus transmission among civil servants, who he said should set an example to the wider community in Central Lombok.
“It’s also fashion. They could match their hijab to the color of the veil. It has nothing to do with radicalism, or over-fanaticism,” Suhaili said as quoted by kompas.com, adding that the requirement would start as soon as next Friday.
The civil servants, however, are not required to wear a head-to-toe veil that also cloaks the body, but a niqab covering only the nose and mouth.
Suhaili also said the requirement was not forceful and that there would be no regulation needed to enforce it. “There are no sanctions, only a pleasant and healthy movement.”
Lombok Tengah civil servant Yayuh had mixed feelings about the niqab requirement. Although it can be a learning process to wear proper Muslim clothing, Yayuh feared it might create a contrast with the gymnastic clothes they wore.
“We usually wear tight pants for the Friday event. If outsiders see it, it might be a bit inappropriate,” Yayuh said, adding that it might be expensive to have that kind of niqab.
As of Thursday, West Nusa Tenggara had recorded 1,260 COVID-19 cases, 63 of which have turned fatal. Lombok Tengah has recorded at least 114 cases, with four deaths. (syk)