Uniform jilbab

The Islamic headscarf is now mandatory in many high schools

Lyn Parker

After independence was established in 1945, schoolgirls in Indonesia were not to wear the jilbab to school. The jilbab is the Indonesian version of the Islamic veil, and is a powerful symbol of Islamic identity. This uniform policy was based on the principle of religious diversity inscribed in the Constitution as part of the new nation unification of the agenda. Then, in 1990, the government has allowed the wearing of the jilbab in public schools for the first time. By the year 2004, in some parts of Indonesia, the jilbab become mandatory school uniforms. The dramatic turnaround in jilbab-wearing reflects the Islamisation of Indonesian society, and is part of the so-called Islamic revival all over the world.

The province of West Sumatra is the heartland of matrilineal and heavily Muslim Minangkabau people. School, in consultation with the teachers, have recently highlighted the jilbab mandatory school uniforms in many senior high schools, both academic and vocational training, in West Sumatra. (Students in the Islamic Senior High Schools, under the control of the Department of Religion, and students in private Islamic schools, have long worn the jilbab.)

Reinventing tradition

Why do schools in West Sumatra decide the jilbab compulsory? Directors and teachers in Bukittinggi say that the decision was part of the national movement in the direction of regional autonomy and the local push to “return to the nagari” (traditional Minang village). They argue that the jilbab is part of Minangkabau traditional dress, not Islamic dress, and that its adoption goes hand in hand with the revival of the adat (custom) and the return to the surau (traditional Islamic prayer house).

But many others, including the adat community leaders and the Islamic preacher, are happy to note that private-wearing jilbab is an invented tradition. Traditionally, the major item of women‘s dresses were loose, modest baju kurung (long-sleeved tunic) worn over a long skirt. While in the old days Minang women sometimes draped a scarf, towel or other cloth on their heads, though, this was not the same as the jilbab. That does not mean that Adat and Islam are in conflict about this problem: always, teachers, parents and community leaders insist that Islam and adat than one.

The new school uniforms for girls in general from the jilbab, baju kurung and long skirt. The effect of the outfit is that the female body shape and wrapped the body and hair. Schools have generally kept the basic colors of the former uniform: That is, white top and gray bottom, with variant nominated regime in days. A typical school requires grey and white on Mondays to Thursdays, white jilbab, purple baju kurung and black skirt on Friday and the ubiquitous brown of the Girl Guides’ uniform on Saturday.

In West Sumatra, uniform codes are an important part of school rules. School rules are plentiful and detailed. Compliance with the dress code is almost universal. Teachers and parents stress that the jilbab is’ clean ‘and’ right ‘. A teacher at a vocational school said, “Before, clothing was a real problem in the school. Then the jilbab was as mandatory school uniforms, and the long skirt. Well, clothing is no problem. Five years ago we had mini-skirts Much preman (hoodlums) – anger! Well, it’s no problem, everything is covered. “

Meanings of the jilbab

But what does the jilbab mean for the young women themselves? You have to take it to school so that the most important question is when or whether they wear the jilbab in everyday life. Pupils and young women discuss the jilbab as an Islamic head covering, not as part of the Minang dress or identity. They explain it in terms of the aurat (nudity). Many define the aurat as an extension from the top of the hair in the hands and feet of women, and from the waist to the knees of men, but others cite the Koran to show that the requirement is simply too modesty of dress.

Many young women believe that the decision on the admission of the jilbab should come from the heart. A student at an academic school above explains why they are not wearing the jilbab, “people who wear jilbab should really have a strong hold in religion. They should follow the commands of Allah, His avoid bans. They should have a commitment to the protection of good The name of religion and the good name of the jilbab, that they bear. Jilbab is not only a symbol. Now we see many people wear the jilbab, but their behavior is not appropriate for someone who wears a jilbab. For example, the clothing of a jilbab Vehicles should not take the form of the body. “She says she is not prepared to make such a commitment. The decision on the admission of the jilbab is a serious long-term.

The jilbab imposed its own discipline. Since the jilbab limited head movement, makes it constantly aware, the winners of their own bodies. It encourages girls to be more careful, more pious, polite and respectful, and less flirtatious. Another student at the same school puts it: “If we take the jilbab, it’s only a piece of cloth, but it is difficult. If we do, we drastically change. We have a responsibility for us, if we do . The jilbab – it is not only a symbol, he will have with us. jilbab is not just on the outside, but in our hearts. “

Many girls say the jilbab as protection against the male gaze, male against unwanted advances and sexual harassment. A devout scholar at a religious school, explains, “The jilbab is for us, especially girls, to protect them. In the Koran it says that we bear the jilbab in order that we, as Muslims and not harassed by men – so we are at the other sex. “A girl, karate lessons in her jilbab, provides for wearing the jilbab and learning karate as a way to repulse sexual assault:” When a girl shows her aurat and then raped, she herself has probably done wrong : Why did they encourage male desire? “

The wearing of the jilbab is a way for young girls to protect their reputation and thus their marriageability. All Minang girls expect to marry and have children to the family. Parents often strongly encourage their daughters tý wear the jilbab outside the school. A typical teenage girl who says they do not always go at night. If they did, “world war would break out three” at home. As a young woman she is forbidden to go out at night. She has worn the jilbab since junior high on their parents’ order (suruhan), but she says she likes to wear.


Most of my research participants publicly support the compulsory jilbab in schools, but some object in private. Most of these objects do so for religious reasons: that the commitment to host the jilbab should forever, and to do so, the jilbab part of the school reduced its religious value. Teachers say that the non-Muslim students are not forced to a veil to wear, but that in practice they do everything, because there are so few of them, and they do not want to stand out. One male principal says it is not a problem: the jilbab is part of a Minang clothing, not Islamic dress, and is only a part of the school.

However, this “not-a-problem” attitude is not always shared by the non-Muslim parents. The potential of the new policy to ostracise religious minorities was home to me in an interview with a Chinese Catholic family with two children. The oldest child, a son of a top academic school in Bukittinggi. The parents believe that their daughter not be able to wear the Islamic jilbab and have decided to make a private Christian school in Padang due to the new compulsory jilbab. You do not see the jilbab as a message of cleanliness or Minangkabau-ness: You see it as a declaration of the Muslim identity – and thus the exclusion.

From the International and Human Rights perspective, so that the jilbab for pupils is a courageous step. The people in West Sumatra are very well aware that France has laws against Muslim girls wearing the veil to school, even if only very few know that Singapore has done. The French legislation has been widely condemned, on the grounds that it is a violation of human rights and religious freedom. Unfortunately, none of the Muslim school teacher or student, I saw that the parallel between human rights and religious freedom in France and of human rights and religious freedom in Indonesia. None of them pointed out that students in West Sumatra have the right not to wear the jilbab. For me, this is a bad signal for the future of religious tolerance and multiculturalism in Indonesia.

Lyn Parker (lparker@cyllene.uwa.edu.au) is a lecturer in Asian studies at the Faculty of Social and Cultural Studies at the University of Western Australia. She is currently exploring adolescent girls in Minangkabau.


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