JAKARTA, KOMPAS.com – Indonesia is trying to live up to its billing of “Unity in Diversity”, as the government issued a Joint Ministerial Decree [SKB] prohibiting the compulsory wearing of hijabs and other religiously oriented clothing as a prerequisite to go to school.
The decision comes after a state junior high school in Padang, West Sumatra stirred controversy throughout Indonesia at the end of January 2021, after it required a non-Muslim student to wear a hijab to the school.
“Provincial administrations or [state] schools [across Indonesia] should not require or forbid [students] from wearing any religious attributes,” said the decree, which was passed on Wednesday, February 4.
Signed by Minister of Education and Culture Nadiem Makarim, Home Affairs Minister Tito Karnavian and Religious Affairs Minister Yaqut Cholil Qoumas, the document covers schools at the primary and secondary level.
The Decree covers state schools, as they “were intended by the government for the Indonesian people, regardless of their creed, ethnicity, and various backgrounds,” said Nadiem.
“The Decree also allows students and teachers alike to choose uniforms and other outfits that reflect their religious beliefs or not. The students’ parents also have a say on the type of uniform worn by their children.” He admitted that the documents’ scope does not cover private schools.
However, this does not stop Yaqut from being upbeat about the decree. “We hope that the Ministerial Decree will help sectarian related tensions,” he noted.
“The document will also prevent any one religion from foisting their belief on other faiths. Instead, the Ministerial Decree will help the adherents of each religion to understand and tolerate one another.”