Christians in Sumatra: jilbab norm, an excuse to introduce the Shariah
by Mathias Hariyadi
The Mayor of Pekanbaru has issued a directive requiring students to wear traditional Muslim clothing. The Islands’ Christians stress that the law is unconstitutional and an "abuse of power." Criticism from women: a burden on family budgets.

Jakarta (AsiaNews) - The Jilbab is not part of Indonesian culture, but comes from the Arab tradition, to impose a form of dress that conforms to the precepts of Islam reveals "a project to introduce Shariah" and is a blatant "abuse of power." That is the reaction of  Christians in Pekanbaru, capital of Riau province,  Sumatra, to the local mayor’s decision to make the traditional clothing that leaves only the face uncovered mandatory by law.

" I strongly oppose the idea,” says a local Christian, speaking on the condition of anonymity for security reasons - of imposing the Muslim attires to any students in Pekanbaru”. He stresses that the decision "is contrary to the Constitution of 1945" because all legislation must be "general" and not specifically relate "to a particular religious confession." Another resident - also under conditions of anonymity - adds that "the introduction of the law is just one more step towards the full implementation of Islamic law in the city" and an example "of abuse of power."

The dispute stems from the decision by Erizal Muluk, Mayor of Pekanbaru, to introduce a dress code that conforms to Islamic precepts for students in the city. The rule came into force July 13 last, and is valid for the school year 2009/10, involving students from elementary to higher school level.

The mayor says that the law applies to the families of Muslim faith and aims to "restore the local cultural identity", as part of a larger project entitled Pekanbaru's vision for 2021. It aims to transform the provincial capital into a centre for education, business and services Malay culture, closely bond to Muslim tradition. Favorevole alla legge la maggior parte degli esponenti della comunità islamica locale, che parlano di una “buona” decisione. Con alcune eccezioni: un gruppo di donne della città si lamenta perché la nuova norma – che impone il rinnovamento del guardaroba – ha “gravato in modo significativo” sul bilancio familiare.

Most representatives of the local Islamic community favour the law, describing it as a "good" decision. With some exceptions: a group of women from the town complain that the norm- which imposes a complete wardrobe change – places a "significant burden" on the family budget.