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    » 04/24/2008, 00.00

    INDONESIA

    In Padang, Islamic law is now imposed on all

    Mathias Hariyadi

    The controversial local laws inspired by sharia are now being applied to non-Muslim citizens. Female students who do not wear the headscarf are suspended, and few have the courage to rebel, because of fear of reprisals from fundamentalists.

    Jakarta (AsiaNews) - In Padang, capital of the province of West Sumatra, the atmosphere is increasingly that of an Islamic state.  Female students who do not wear the headscarf (hijab) are frequently suspended from school.  The requirement to observe Islamic customs, sanctioned by the controversial regional law of 2005, is also imposed on non-Muslim girls, and has generated an atmosphere of strong pressure on religious minorities.  The proliferation of local laws inspired by sharia (perda syariat) is a growing phenomenon in Indonesia, but the central government has chosen not to intervene for now, in spite of protests from religious minorities and human rights NGO's.

    The situation is not limited to Padang alone, where the most active promoter of Islamic laws is the mayor himself, Fauzi Bahar.  In this province, which has an overwhelming Muslim majority, since 2002 more than 19 districts have ratified the so-called "perda syariat", norms that are, however, supposed to be applied only to Muslim citizens: some of them criminalise behaviours prohibited by Islamic law, like adultery, prostitution, games of chance, and consumption of alcohol, while others restrict the freedom of women.  Men as well are required to wear Islamic dress: the traditional white robe called the "koko".

    The application of the headscarf law in Padang is going beyond all imaginable limits, the inhabitants of the area say.  An anonymous Catholic young woman admits: "Wearing the headscarf is not pleasant for me at all, and it bothers me while I am studying in school".  Other female students in various schools complain about the same thing.  If they are interviewed by journalists, the young women ask not be named, because they are afraid of "being persecuted by fundamentalists".  "We have to adapt", they say, "we have no choice, otherwise they will send us home". Sudarto, one of the members of a local NGO that works for interreligious dialogue, reports that the headscarf law is applied strictly in at least four schools in Padang.

    Other residents report with concern that since 2003 in Padang, mayor Fauzi has moved forward "enthusiastically" the project of "creating a more Islamic atmosphere" in the city.  Among the other norms inspired by sharia, they recall the obligation for students in the elementary schools to learn the Qur'an by heart.

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    See also

    21/10/2008 KUWAIT
    Two female Kuwaiti ministers risk "dismissal" for not wearing the veil
    A parliamentary committee has decided that their attire, without the hijab, violates the constitution and the electoral law. The matter will now be submitted to a vote in parliament.

    17/06/2008 IRAN
    Women-only park opened in Tehran
    They will be able to play sports and go jogging with their heads uncovered. But not outside of the "protected" area: a "moralising" campaign is launched against girls who do not follow Islamic dress code, and men with" Western" hair styles.

    18/06/2008 PAKISTAN
    Pakistan, no government response to Taliban offensive
    While the NATO attack rages in southern Afghanistan, president Musharraf and the interior ministry meet to study a defensive strategy and combat the apparent powerlessness of the government. In the meantime, the Taliban are threatening women who study, and closing non-Islamic shops.

    07/03/2009 INDONESIA
    East Java, policewomen must wear Islamic veil
    The new chief of police has issued a "nonbinding" order for all women in uniform. Police officers are also asked to pray five times a day. The headquarters in Java has approved the norm, and says that the agents are "free" to decide whether to follow it.

    24/10/2008 TURKEY
    European-style reforms save Erdogan from constitutional court ban
    In rejecting the request to dissolve the governing party and exclude its leaders from political life, the court had affirmed in July that the AKP is "the focal point of anti-secular activities," but will not be dissolved because it is promoting the reforms requested by the EU, and those in favor of women and non-Islamic minorities.



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