Forced Hijab in Minang Land
Discrimination against non-muslim students occurred for years in Padang. Padang City government refused to revise the problematic regulation.
THE request came to Yohanna after new students orientation session in 2015 in the Nasional Padang Vocational School (SMK), West Sumatra, ended. “Yohanna, please matched the clothes like other students,” said Yohanna repeating the teacher’s statement to Tempo, Thursday, February 18.
Among 25 female students in her school at that time, it was only Yohanna who did not wear a hijab or headscarf. The Christian girl had never worn a hijab when she studied in the Parupuk Tabing 24 State Elementary School and Angkasa Lanud Padang Junior High School. However, Yohanna was reluctant to object her teacher’s request. A day later, she followed five other non-Muslim students in that school, who had worn hijab.
In the beginning, she felt awkward as she needed to cover her hair, ears, and neck with a piece of cloth. “But, gradually (I am) used to it,” said Yohanna, who is now 22 years old. For three years, she always wore a headscarf. Only in 2018, after she graduated from that school, Yohanna removed her hijab.
Tempo has not obtained a response from the Nasional Padang SMK. On Thursday, February 25, an administrative staff named Yuni asked Tempo to call the school again on the following day. Nevertheless, the frequent calls to the school were not answered.
Devina Larosa, an alumnus of the State Vocational School (SMKN) 6 Padang, had also received the same request. Several of her teachers asked her to imitate her friends who were all almost wore a headscarf. Her teacher said that she would look prettier if she wore it. But she regarded the statement merely as a joke, so she did not fulfill the teacher’s request. According to Devina, the obligation to wear a hijab was conveyed by the school since she was accepted in the SMKN 6 Padang.
However, the regulation is not applicable to those who are non-Muslim. Out of 24 female students in her school that year, only Devina and a friend, also non-Muslim, who were not wearing a headscarf. “From the start until graduation, I have never wore hijab,” she said. Despite not wearing a headscarf, Devina who graduated in 2020, admitted never received a different treatment.
Towards the end of January, Jeni Cahyani Hia, a female student majoring in automation and office administrations at the SMKN 2 Padang, experienced discriminations. The school obliged all of its female students, including those of non-Muslims, to wear hijab. Jeni was reprimanded by her teacher for not wearing it.
Jeni’s father, Elianu Hia, then recorded his conversation with the school’s deputy headmaster. He tried to explain that his daughter was a non-Muslim. Nonetheless, the school explained that the obligation to wear hijab had to be abided by all female students, both Muslims and not. Lately, the recorded conversation video went viral in the social media.
SMKN 2 Padang Headmaster Rusmadi apologized for the incident. He claimed that the hijab-wearing rules for non-Muslim students were not compulsory, but only a recommendation. State High School 11 Padang teacher, Asmi Yuriana Dewi, said, that in her school, the regulation to wear hijab was not obligatory for non-Muslims. However, in that school, three students of other religions chose to wear it.
The West Sumatera Community of Human Rights Defenders—consisting of a variety of organizations, such as the Padang Legal Aid Institute (LBH), the University of Andalas Center of Constitution Study, and the Padang Gusdurian—considered that the obligation for female students to wear headscarf started from the Instruction of Padang City Mayor No. 451.442/BINSOS-III/2005. It obliges all students, from elementary to high school, to wear Islamic clothing. Meanwhile, those who were non-Muslim were requested to adjust themselves in accordance with the regulation.
Deputy Director of the Padang LBH Indira Suryani considered the regulation problematic due to the word “to adjust” which could be translated as compulsory. “It is different when the clothes are worn based on one own’s desire,” she said.
According to Indira, the case that happened in the SMKN 2 Padang and several other schools were an iceberg phenomenon. Based on the Padang LBH’s record, at least six female students in that city admitted they had to wear hijab due to school regulations. Indira refused to mention the students’ names and the schools. She was concerned about the safety and mental health of the students. There was even a student who suffered from trauma and refused to stay out of the house as a consequence of the compulsion.
After the emergence of the case at the SMKN 2 Padang, Minister of Education and Culture Nadiem Anwar Makarim, Minister of Home Affairs Tito Karnavian and Minister of Religion Yaqut Cholil Qoumas, issued a joint decree (SKB) to revoke discriminative regulations. “The essence of the SKB is that students, teachers, and education staffs have the rights to choose their uniforms,” said Nadiem. The SKB obliged school headmasters and regional administrations to repeal discriminatory regulations no later than 30 days after the signing of the SKB on February 3.
Schools and local governments that do not fulfill the regulation will be penalized. Schools will receive cuts on the school operational assistance funds. Meanwhile, regional heads will be penalized by governors or the home affairs minister. The ministry of education together with the National Commission on Human Rights (Komnas HAM) and the National Child Protection Commission (KPAI) plan to conduct monitoring to various schools. “This early March we will discuss on the SKB implementation,” said KPAI Commissioner Retno Listyarti.
However, Padang City Secretary Amasrul stated that he had examined the Padang Mayor Instruction. As the result, there was no problem with the regulation. “There are no obligation for those who are non-Muslim,” said Amasrul. He also considered the polemic in the SMKN 2 Padang had ended as the school had relieved the non-Muslim students not to wear hijab.
Nonetheless, the three-ministerial SKB does not automatically make non-Muslim students remove their headscarf. Hodril Hamsir, a teacher at the SMK 2 Bukittinggi, said that after the decree was issued, the schools allowed non-Muslim students to take off their headscarf. “But, they do not want to remove it,” he said.
According to activist of the Center of Inter-Community Study, Sudarto Toto, the regulation obliging or prohibiting hijab-wearing should not exist in the country. He was astonished by the West Sumatra Province, which made hijab-wearing as customs that needed to be obliged. He reflected on the litterateur Abdul Malik Karim Amrullah or Hamka and the cleric as well as the founder of the Masyumi Party, Mohammad Natsir, who were originated from the province. “Their wives only wore traditional baju kurung without hijab,” he said.