Indonesia has banned public schools from making religious attire compulsory, after the story of a Christian student being pressured to wear a headscarf in class went viral. The 16-year-old girl was attending a school that had a rule that all students had to wear the Muslim headscarf. The government has given schools 30 days to revoke any existing rules.
Indonesia, a Muslim-majority country, officially recognises other religions. But there are growing concerns about rising religious intolerance. The ban was signed into decree on Wednesday, and schools which do not comply may face sanctions. Indonesia’s Minister for Education and Culture Nadiem Makarim said the choice of wearing religious attire was “an individual’s right… it is not the school’s decision”. The issue captured national attention in recent weeks after a student from a Christian family who was attending a vocational school in Padang was repeatedly asked to wear a Muslim headscarf in class in January. She refused, and her parents were called in to speak to school officials. Her parents secretly filmed a video of the meeting and posted it on social media, which prompted a backlash online. In the video, the official insisted that the school had a rule that all female students, including non-Muslims, must wear the headscarf according to school rules.
The school’s principal later apologised at a press conference and said the student would be allowed to dress according to her own religious beliefs. Indonesia is the world’s largest Muslim-majority country, but it officially recognises six religions and has enshrined pluralism in the state philosophy known as Pancasila.