Indonesia university revokes niqab ban after criticism

A student wearing a niqab face veil stages a protest against the ban on wearing niqabs on university grounds at the Sunan Kalijaga State Islamic University in Yogyakarta. The university has reversed the policy after criticisms it trampled on personal choice. (AFP)
Updated 12 March 2018
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Indonesia university revokes niqab ban after criticism

YOGYAKARTA, Indonesia: An Indonesian university whose ban on niqab face veils made global headlines has reversed the policy following criticism that it trampled on personal choice.
Sunan Kalijaga State Islamic University in Indonesia’s cultural capital Yogyakarta issued the edict last week to more than three dozen niqab-wearing students — and warned they could be expelled for non-compliance.
The school, which has about 10,000 students, had said the now-canceled rule was aimed at countering religious extremism in the world’s biggest Muslim majority country.
“The guidance concerning students using a face veil will be revoked in order to maintain an academic climate that is conducive to fairness,” said a statement issued by the university at the weekend.
Backers of the new rules said wearing the full veil with a small slit for the eyes was not a religious obligation, but critics saw the anti-niqab appeal as impinging on individual rights.
Another school in Yogyakarta, Ahmad Dahlan University, has also urged students not to wear the niqab — without penalty for non-compliance — while several Indonesian universities have issued niqab bans in the past.
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, and are often seen as an unwelcome Arab export.
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.


Presidential candidate Prabowo among Indonesian VIPs attending Saudi national day

Updated 11 min 25 sec ago
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Presidential candidate Prabowo among Indonesian VIPs attending Saudi national day

JAKARTA: The Saudi Arabia's Embassy in Jakarta celebrated the country’s 88th National Day on Monday evening with presidential candidate Prabowo Subianto among the public figures attending the reception at a hotel in Jakarta.
Prabowo was flanked by his deputy in the Great Indonesia Movement (Gerindra) Party and Deputy House Speaker Fadli Zon, who shared the VIP table with Jakarta Governor Anies Baswedan, Energy and Mineral Resources Minister Ignatius Jonan, ICT Minister Rudiantara and Saudi Ambassador to Indonesia, Osama bin Mohammed Abdullah Al Shuaibi. The son of Indonesia’s 6th president Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono, Agus Harimurti Yudhoyono, who is part of Prabowo’s campaign team, was also spotted in the VIP crowd.
The playing of national anthems of both countries and a brief Qur’an recital marked the start of the reception.
Speaking on behalf of the government, Jonan thanked King Salman and the people of Saudi Arabia for facilitating the speedy welcome of 203,351 Indonesian pilgrims who performed the Hajj this year and for sending a big contingent to participate in the 18th Asian Games which was held in Jakarta and Palembang last month.
“On this joyous occassion, we would like to appreciate the remarkable achievements on the relations between the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia and the Republic of Indonesia, and the continuing efforts to increase the relations in various sectors that will benefit both countries’ interests,” the ambassador said in his speech.
He added that the historic visit of King Salman on March 2017 has resulted in the signing of 11 memorandum of understanding in different sectors that contributed to the increased relations between Indonesia and Saudi Arabia.
The VIPs were then invited to the stage to jointly cut the cake and took part in the sword dance.
Prabowo, who is running his presidential bid for the second time against incumbent President Joko Widodo in next year’s elections, told journalists that it is very important to maintain relations between the two countries.
“Prabowo is always invited to Saudi National Day and he always attends. We congratulate the kingdom for the national day celebration. We have a very strong emotional connection with Saudi Arabia,” Fadli told Arab News.
“I congratulate the kingdom, the government and the people of Saudi Arabia for the national day celebration. We have a very strong connection not just in the context of Hajj and umrah but also in other contexts. Last month I met my Saudi counterpart in a G20 meeting in Argentina and we talked about how to develop digital economy between the two countries,” Rudiantara told Arab News.