Indonesia: Catholic Schoolgirls Forced to Wear Muslim Veil

Source: FSSPX News

Since the fall of the Suharto regime in 1998, some twenty municipalities and districts have been able, on account of the decentralization, to enact legislation inspired by the Sharia. Some of them penalize behavior prohibited by Islamic law, such as adultery, alcohol consumption and prostitution. Others in the cities of Padang and Solok (province of western Sumatra) and in the province of Banten, impose the wearing of the Islamic veil, in public places. In Padang, Indramayu (West Java) and Maros (South Celebes), there is legislation making the study of the Koran obligatory.

For the past two years, in Padang, a municipal bylaw, put in place by the city mayor, Fauzi Bahar, forces Muslim pupils to wear traditional Islamic attire in state primary and secondary schools. The girls must wear long dresses and long sleeved blouses and the hijab, a headscarf covering their hair, ears and neck. The boys have to wear the baju koko (a long sleeved shirt) and pants. Some of the province’s state schools also impose this dress code on all non-Muslim pupils.

In the district of Pesisir Selatan, Nova Hingliot Simarmata, a Catholic high school student attending a state school, refused at first, to conform to the wearing of the veil, obligatory since 2005. “I was so embarrassed when I wore the veil for the first time. I felt really strange. As I was wearing this item of clothing, people would think I was a Muslim”, said the girl.

The father of a Catholic family, Stefanus Prayoga Ismu Rahardi, has two of his three daughters in state schools. “The first time I saw them in the hijab, I felt troubled. They did not know how to wear it and it annoyed them. I advised them to wear the veil so as not to be hassled, and to regard it merely as an accessory", he added, making it clear that he regretted this solution, since, “if a non-Muslim wears the hijab, willingly or otherwise, she will be identified with Islam”.

Bonifasius Bakti Sirergar, a member of the Office for Catholic Teaching in West Sumatra, noted that in many cases, non-Muslim girls resign themselves to wearing the hijab, but feel under duress. They are pupils in these schools only because they are not able to attend establishments run by Catholics or Protestants.

On the other hand, some private Catholic high schools have seen the numbers of Muslim pupils increase markedly since the 2004/2005 academic year, because unlike the state high school in Padang, these schools do not force them to wear the hijab. “We have lessons on Islam, so consequently I do not feel that my religious education is being neglected”, said one of the Muslim pupils.

The mayor of Pedang has asked the Muslims studying in Christian schools to apply the directive imposed on pupils in state schools, concerning dress code. However, most Catholic schools do not apply disciplinary measures against pupils who wear the normal uniform. According to Fr. Florianus Sarno, head of the Diocesan Education Office, “Catholic schools ask pupils to wear the national uniform” ; that is, for boys a white shirt and red shorts in primary school, blue shorts in secondary school and grey pants in high school ; and for the girls, a white blouse and a dress. On Saturdays, pupils wear the Scout uniform. The girls have to wear long dresses, pointed out Fr. Florianus Sarno.