Indonesian universities ‘ban’ niqab over fundamentalism fears

For many Indonesians, the niqab is an unwelcome Arab export and some associate it with radical Islam, which the country has wrestled with for years. (AFP)
Updated 08 March 2018
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Indonesian universities ‘ban’ niqab over fundamentalism fears

YOGYAKARTA, Indonesia: A pair of Indonesian Islamic universities are pushing female students to ditch niqab face veils — with one threatening expulsion for non-compliance — as concerns grow over rising fundamentalism in the world’s biggest Muslim-majority nation.
Sunan Kalijaga State Islamic University said it issued the edict this week to more than three dozen niqab-wearing students, who will be booted from school if they refuse.
Although niqabs are common in ultra-conservative Saudi Arabia and some other Gulf states, they’re rare in secular Indonesia, where around 90 percent of its 260 million people have traditionally followed a moderate form of Islam.
For many Indonesians, the niqab — a full veil with a small slit for the eyes — is an unwelcome Arab export and some associate it with radical Islam, which the country has wrestled with for years.
“We are a state university ... we’ve been told to spread moderate Islam,” the school’s chancellor Yudian Wahyudi told a press briefing this week.
The school, based in Indonesia’s cultural capital Yogyakarta, has some 10,000 students.
Another Yogyakarta-based institution, Ahmad Dahlan University, has also introduced a new prohibition on the niqab out of fears it might stir up religious radicalism, which has seen a resurgence on many of the nation’s university campuses.
There will be no penalty for those who refuse, it added.
“But during exams, they cannot wear it because officials have to match the photos on their exam ID with them, which is hard if one is wearing the niqab,” university chancellor Kasiyarno, who like many Indonesians goes by one name, told reporters Wednesday.
Indonesia’s reputation as a bastion of progressiveness and religious tolerance has recently been tested by a government push to outlaw gay and pre-marital sex. The conservative lurch comes as once-fringe Islamic political parties move into the mainstream.
The niqab has been at the center of a heated global debate over religious freedom and women’s rights, with France the first European country to ban it in public spaces.
Backers of the schools’ new rules said wearing a niqab is not a religious obligation.
“Education should be about dialogue — open and progressive — and if you wear a niqab it interferes in that dialogue and the teaching-learning process,” said Zuhairi Misrawi, head of the Jakarta-based Muslim Moderate Society.
But others saw the anti-niqab appeal as trampling on individual rights.
It’s “a matter of personal preference and the university has to respect that,” said Fadlun Amin, a spokesman for the local chapter of the Forum Ukhuwah Islamiyah, part of top clerical body the Indonesian Ulema Council.
Several Indonesian universities have issued niqab bans in the past.
Last year, a private Islamic high school in Java was reprimanded by local officials after images went viral online that showed a classroom of sitting female students wearing niqab, violating a national regulation on acceptable school uniforms.


Trump picks Mick Mulvaney to be next chief of staff

In this file photo taken on January 20, 2018, Mick Mulvaney, Director of the Office of Management and Budget, speaks during a briefing at the James S. Brady Press Briefing Room of the White House in Washington, DC. (AFP)
Updated 15 December 2018
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Trump picks Mick Mulvaney to be next chief of staff

  • Christie’s departure is the latest twist in a search triggered when Trump’s preferred candidate to replace Kelly bowed out

WASHINGTON: President Donald Trump on Friday picked budget director Mick Mulvaney to be his next chief of staff, ending a chaotic search that had been inching forward with the feel of an unfolding reality TV show.
Trump tweeted that Mulvaney “will be named Acting White House Chief of Staff, replacing General John Kelly, who has served our Country with distinction.”
“Mick has done an outstanding job while in the Administration,” Trump posted. “I look forward to working with him in this new capacity as we continue to MAKE AMERICA GREAT AGAIN! John will be staying until the end of the year. He is a GREAT PATRIOT and I want to personally thank him for his service!“
Though deemed an “acting” chief of staff, Mulvaney’s term will be open-ended, according to a senior White House official speaking on the condition of anonymity to discuss personnel matters. The position does not require confirmation.
Mulvaney, who will be Trump’s third chief of staff, will now take on his third job in the administration; he is the head of the Office of Management and had simultaneously led the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau.
A former Tea Party congressman, was among a faction on the hard right that bullied GOP leaders into a 2013 government shutdown confrontation by insisting on lacing a must-pass spending bill with provisions designed to cripple President Barack Obama’s signature health care law.
The appointment of the affable, fast-talking South Carolinian came just hours after another candidate for the post, former New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, took himself out of contention for the job. Christie cited family reasons in a statement saying that he was asking Trump to remove him from consideration. He had met with Trump on Thursday to discuss the job, according to a person familiar with the meeting who was not authorized to discuss it publicly.
Christie’s departure is the latest twist in a search triggered when Trump’s preferred candidate to replace Kelly bowed out.
Trump said Thursday that he was weighing five possibilities. Among the others he considered: his 2016 deputy campaign manager David Bossie, US Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer and Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin.
Trump senior aide and son-in-law Jared Kushner, who had also been the subject of speculation, signaled his lack of interest. A person familiar with the matter said Kushner believed that he could serve the president best in his current role. The person spoke on condition of anonymity to discuss internal matters. The names of acting Attorney General Matthew Whitaker and even White House communications director Bill Shine and press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders had also been floated.
The president’s hunt for a new chief reverted to square one last weekend when Nick Ayers, Vice President Mike Pence’s chief of staff, took himself out of the running and decided that he would instead leave the White House. The announcement surprised even senior staffers who believed that Ayers’ ascension was a done deal.
Trump’s first chief of staff, Reince Priebus, served for six months before leaving in July 2017.