The father, a Christian, was upset that his 16-year-old daughter had been ordered to wear an Islamic head scarf at her public school in Indonesia. He met with the school’s vice principal and protested the rule. And he didn’t stop there: He streamed their conversation on Facebook Live.
“This is a requirement,” the vice principal, Zakri Zaini, sternly told the father, Elianu Hia, during their recorded conversation. “It has been stated in the school regulations.”
The video of the two men’s January conversation, which has been viewed more than 830,000 times, sparked a discussion across the majority-Muslim nation about religious discrimination, and it brought a swift declaration from the national government in support of religious freedom.
The government of President Joko Widodo last month issued a decree, which took effect on Friday, ordering public schools to respect religious freedom and prohibiting them from enforcing religious-based dress codes.
a conservative form of Islam, giving rise to greater intolerance of minority groups.
The government’s decree, which declares that public schools cannot “require, order, oblige, encourage or prohibit the use of uniforms with attributes of specific religions,” was lauded by civil rights groups. More significantly, it was held up by the minister of religious affairs as a reaffirmation of Indonesia’s status as a tolerant nation.
The minister, Yaqut Cholil Qoumas, called the head scarf case “the tip of the iceberg” and said the decree was intended, in part, to remind the public that Indonesia is a diverse nation built on pluralism.
“Indonesia is neither a religious state nor a secular state,” said Mr. Yaqut, a leading Muslim cleric and former member of Parliament. “It unites and harmonizes national values and religious values.”
Brad Adams, the Asia director at Human Rights Watch. “The new decree is a long overdue step to end discriminatory dress codes.”
The decree applies to all of Indonesia’s 166,000 public schools except those in Aceh Province, which is semiautonomous and operates under a modified form of Islamic, or Shariah, law. Indonesia’s many religious schools are also exempt from the decree.