One of the many areas that Indonesia's rising religious conservatism is causing conflict is in the country's schools, where clashes over student uniforms and requirements they include religious elements have generated controversy.
The latest incident involves a public school that sent out a letter saying that all of its students are required to wear Islamic clothing as a part of their school uniform.
Karangtengah 3 Public Elementary School (SDN Karangtengah 3), located in the Wonosari sub-district of Gunung Kidul Regency in Yogyakarta, recently issued a circular requiring students to wear Islamic uniform for the upcoming new academic year. The circular, issued on June 18, was signed by the school's principal, Pujiastuti.
The circular states that grade one students who are enrolling in the 2019/2020 academic year are obliged to wear the Islamic uniforms, while students in the second to fourth grade are not yet required to adopt the new policy. Starting in 2020/2021, the Islamic uniform would be mandatory for all students. The circular also included sample drawings of the school uniforms which feature the usual red bottoms and white shirt design but require that girls wear the hijab.
A photo of the circular was posted by a mother of one of the school's students to social media, where it quickly went viral and drew the ire of some netizens.
"Why has not wearing a hijab become a struggle/jihad nowadays? It's because of this kind of [rule]. The headscarf regime has penetrated into the education bureaucracy, down to remote areas," the user tweeted this morning.
When asked about the Islamic uniform obligation, Pujiastuti said that she wrote the circular along with other teachers. She said she implemented the policy because, according to her, all of the students at her school are Muslims and the administration had the approval of the Gunung Kidul Youth Education and Sports Agency (Disdikpora). However, in light of the controversy it caused, she said the wording of the circular would be revised.
Pujiastuti stressed that the school didn't intend to make the uniform rule an obligation, but instead a recommendation to students. Last night, she was summoned by Disdikpora regarding the circular.
"I just realized that there was something wrong in my letter. Because all students who just recently enrolled in our school are Muslims, so we didn't think in advance that there are non-muslims among them. We never intended it to be a form of discrimination, if there were any non-Muslim students we'd welcome them and would not push [them to wear Islamic uniform]," Pujiastuti said, as quoted by Detik.
Pujiastuti said a new circular has been written and would be distributed to parents tomorrow.
Various passages in the Islamic holy book of Quran instruct men and women to protect their modesty, but the obligation to wear the headscarf for women has been a long-standing debate among Muslims. But many highly conservative Muslim families in Indonesia put the hijab on their daughters from a young age, sometimes even in infanthood.