In the News:
Indonesia bans forced religious attire in schools

Indonesia bans forced religious attire in schools, BBC, 2021-02-05.

Indonesia has banned public schools from making religious attire compulsory, after the story of a Christian student being pressured to wear a headscarf in class went viral. The 16-year-old girl was attending a school that had a rule that all students had to wear the Muslim headscarf. The government has given schools 30 days to revoke any existing rules.[…]

The issue captured national attention in recent weeks after a student from a Christian family who was attending a vocational school in Padang was repeatedly asked to wear a Muslim headscarf in class in January. She refused, and her parents were called in to speak to school officials. Her parents secretly filmed a video of the meeting and posted it on social media, which prompted a backlash online. In the video, the official insisted that the school had a rule that all female students, including non-Muslims, must wear the headscarf according to school rules.[…] The school’s principal later apologised at a press conference and said the student would be allowed to dress according to her own religious beliefs.

Indonesia is the world’s largest Muslim-majority country, but it officially recognises six religions and has enshrined pluralism in the state philosophy known as Pancasila.

This is good news, but it is a very small step forward in a country where each citizen is assigned a religious identity and atheists are persecuted. Even if this new rule bans schools from imposing the hijab on non-Muslim girls, what happens if a daughter of Muslim parents prefers not to wear the veil? Each pupil remains assigned to a religion, the religion of their parents, and that violates the child’s freedom of conscience.

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