12/13/2007, 00.00
INDONESIA

Women soldiers wearing headscarves, Islamic fundamentalism’s next goal

by Benteng Reges
Islamic parties call the proposal made by some Islamic media outlet a “great idea.” Fear prevails in the population which has so far seen the army as the guarantor of the state’s secular nature and a pillar of Indonesia’s multi-ethnic society.

Jakarta (AsiaNews) – Women soldiers wearing headscarves could soon be commonplace in Indonesia, where a fierce debate is raging over the influence of Islamic parties on the social life the country. Especially there is concern over the rise of Islamic fundamentalism in the army, hitherto considered the guarantor of the state’s secular nature.

Indonesia’s military have been seen by the population as the main bastion of the country’s political institutions, free from all sectarian tendencies and the pillar of its multi-ethnic nature.

However, the findings of a report released in 1995 indicated that some generals where “ideologically close” to some Islamic fundamentalist groups. Ever since the issue of the islamisation of the armed forces has remained at the top of the public agenda.

The idea proposed by some Islamic media outlets to allow women soldiers to wear the Jilbab, a headscarf, has found unconditional support among some politicians. According to Hidayat Nurwahid, speaker of the People's Consultative Assembly, “if wearing the jilbab does not interfere in one’s military work, it should not be banned. Moreover, the law says nothing on the matter; therefore, it is an open field.”

Ali Mochtar Ngabalin, a lawmaker for the Moon and Star Party, is even more explicit about it; for him “it’s a great idea.”

Military leaders have not yet expressed themselves on the matter. According to army spokesman General Ricardo Siagian, “the issue still remains to be discussed and will be serious deliberated on before any decision is made.”

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