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.”
The Decree stipulates that provincial administrations or state schools are required to comply with the policy within 30 days after it goes into effect on February 3.
The institutions, as well as officials such as governors, regents, mayors or school principals, will also face sanctions if they failed to comply with the policy. The sanctions range from verbal and written warnings to guidance on practicing more moderate forms of belief.
The controversy started after a state school in the city of Padang, West Sumatra forced a Christian student to wear the hijab in the end of January, on grounds that it has long been a requirement.
However, a video of the student’s parents protesting the decision went viral, turning the issue into a nationwide controversy. The school has since backed down from its stance, with the principal issuing an apology over the issue.
(Writers/Editors: Rakhmat Nur Hakim, Dian Ihsan)