"Maintaining an academic climate conducive to equity". The rule was aimed at countering religious extremism. The provision had sparked heated debate. The niqabs are rare in the country and are often seen as an unwelcome Arab export.
Yogyakarta (AsiaNews / Agencies) – On the back of harsh criticism an Islamic university which had banned its female students from the full veil, or niqab, has made a u-turn. Last week, the Sunan Kalijaga State Islamic University of Yogyakarta, on the island of Java, had imposed a ban on 41 girls, fearing them the possibility of being expelled if they did not comply with the provision.
The institute, which has about 10 thousand students, said that the now cancelled rule was aimed at countering religious extremism in the world’s most populous Muslim majority country. "The resolution concerning female students wearing a veil covering their faces will be revoked, to maintain an academic climate conducive to fairness", says a statement released by the university.
The rule had sparked heated debate in Indonesia. Those in favour say that wearing a full-face veil with a small eye slit does not constitute a religious obligation, but critics have recognized in the anti-niqab appeal an "attack on the individual rights of young people".
Another university in Yogyakarta, Ahmad Dahlan, also invited female students not to wear the niqab, while in the past several Indonesian universities have issued bans. Although the niqabs are common in the ultra-conservative Saudi Arabia and some other Gulf States, they are rare in Indonesia, where about 90% of its 260 million inhabitants profess a moderate form of Islam, and are often seen as unwelcome Arab export.
The rector warns that radicalisation, as exemplified by the burqa, undermines learning. Islamist movements slam the ban. Infiltration of radical ideas in student organisations and their activities on Islamic campuses and schools is a danger. The Widodo government is trying to curb the influence of Islamists.
A banner at Duta Wacana University, a Protestant institution, shows a female student wearing a hijab. According to Islamic radicals, a Muslim should not be shown in an ad for a Christian institution. However, for one Muslim student, “no political agenda should interfere with academic studies”.
The meeting aimed at boosting the role of female clerics in spreading Islamic teachings. Participants discussed and issued some fatwa. Broadening the role of women in Islam can counter extremist groups' propaganda. Muslim women can be "agents of change." Polygamy causes violence and is not part of Islamic teachings.
Parish provides basic necessities and free medical check-ups to people in need. The extremists have been trying to prevent this initiative in areas where most residents are Muslim. Ominous protest rallies and blockades are held in Banguntapan and Jaranan. For a Catholic lawyer, this is “public persecution".
Protests forces Gadjah Mada University to reverse itself. Islamist infiltration in Java universities generates fears. The government seeks to stem the influence of radical groups on campuses. Higher Education minister opposes extremist teachers.