For the MUI, it is wrong especially for young women to wear “improper” garments during aerobic exercises in gyms or in the open air, because of their effect on men.
Aerobic exercises early in the morning, especially during weekends, have become a regular activity for thousands of women of all ages.
Kiai Hajj Sodikun, MUI leader in Palembang, said women should wear more chaste clothing so as not to arouse men. Because of this, unduly sexy gym suits or physical exercises and movements that excite men “should be considered haram (morally illicit)”.
Mr Kiai does acknowledge the importance of physical exercises for human health, but insists that they must be practiced with the appropriate clothing.
The main problem is that no one knows with any certainty what garment or exercise is illicit and what is not. In many Indonesian provinces, there are many traditional dances and body movements, different from one to the other.
“Such views are a very poor argument,” gym teacher Herlina told AsiaNews. “What about women wearing bikini at the beach or whilst swimming?” Jakarta resident Maria asks. “The MUI seems to be short of arguments to address problems raised in modern society,” she added.
Founded in1975 by then President Suharto, the MUI has grown powerful over the years in the areas of morality and behaviour; it has been able to issue guidelines on its own on what constitute licit or illicit attitudes, customs and habits.
Its members act as if they and they alone held the power to define how Islam must be respected and its principles upheld. Over the years, its fatwas over clothing, smoking, fashion and traditions deeply rooted in the archipelago’s history and culture have been controversial.