03/07/2009, 00.00
INDONESIA

East Java, policewomen must wear Islamic veil

Mathias Hariyadi
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.

Jakarta (AsiaNews) - Police women must wear the veil; all police officers are obliged to pray five times a day, as required by the precepts of Islam. These are the directives promulgated by Brigadier General Anton Bachrul Alam, the new chief of police in the province of East Java, to "bring my subordinates to the right path of life."

He clarifies that these guidelines are not a "order," but an "invitation" to practice a way of conduct appropriate for a good Muslim. And in less than three days, the provincial police have adopted the policy issued by their commander. "I think that it's a good idea to be practiced in my jurisdiction area,” says Umar Effendi, police chief in Sumenep. Juansih, a woman and the deputy chief of police in Bojonegoro, says that "this is not a compulsory order, but I have disseminated this new policy to my subordinates." In the Bojonegoro department, there are at least 130 female police officers. "We are happy to do so," say Mega and Eva, two policewomen. "By wearing our jilbab (headscarf), we feel stronger and not as easily plunged into committing sins."

From police headquarters in Jakarta, they say that there is "no problem, if they want to wear or not to wear. As it is not an official order but only an advocacy from their superior, let them do what they want to wear."

In Indonesia, the most populous Muslim country in the world, wearing the jilbab is obligatory only in the province of Aceh, the only one to have adopted sharia. In recent years, the question of the Islamic veil has led to a feud involving all of Indonesian society. Many fundamentalist Islamic groups have asked for the imposition of Islamic law in the entire country, but they have run into opposition from the authorities, who are afraid that "national unity" could be threatened. In recent months, fundamentalists have launched campaigns of "moralization" aimed against yoga, the Rotary and Lions clubs, smoking, and abstention from voting.

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