CAIRO - Muslim scholars and human rights groups are appealing to the Indonesian police to rescind a ban on female personnel to wear hijab while on duty, The Jakarta Post reported Monday, June 17.
The opportunity to become a member of the police force should be equal, including for Muslim women who wear hijabs, Poengky Indiarti, the executive director of rights watchdog Imparsia, said.
It's discrimination if only female members of the corps in Aceh are allowed to wear the garb.
Muslim policewomen in Indonesian have been banned from wearing hijab since 2005.
The ban was part of orders for all police personnel to abide by wearing the official uniform.
Violation of the ban puts police member at the risk of dismissal.
By allowing female members of the police to wear hijabs, the National Police would uphold the country's motto of Bhinneka Tunggal Ika [Unity in Diversity], Muslim scholar Azyumardi Azra told the Post.
Islam sees hijab as an obligatory code of dress, not a religious symbol displaying one's affiliations.
The Muslim headscarf has been in the spotlight since France banned the outfit in 2004.
Since then, several countries banned hijab.
Indonesia is the world's most populous Muslim state with Muslims making up around 85 percent of its 237-million population.
Scholars and activists said wearing the hijab is a basic right of Muslim policewomen.
In Indonesia, many institutions have allowed their employees to wear hijabs, Neta S. Pane, chairman of the Indonesian Police Watch (IPW), said.
I urge policewomen to look for support from the House of Representatives' Commission III on legal affairs and the Women's Empowerment and Child Protection Ministry for the abolition of the ban.
Amidhan Shaberah of the Indonesian Ulema Council (MUI) said the hijab ban showed that the police were a repressive institution.
But police officials defended the hijab ban as necessary.
This has nothing to do with human rights or privileges, said National Police spokesman Brig. Gen. Ronny Sompie.
He argued that hijab could compromise a female officer's work, especially during conflicts involving two groups of faiths or in religious conflicts.
The National Police have their own regulations.
Another police spokesperson, Sr. Comr. Agus Rianto, said the police would not change the policy on hijab.
We are complying with the decree until it is amended.
But another police commissioner, Adrianus Meliala, signaled that the police could amend the ban on the wearing of the Muslim headscarf.According to the National Police General Supervision Inspectorate, they will issue a regulation that allows female police officers to wear hijabs, but they have to be taken off during official ceremonies.