SEVERAL more cases relating to the wearing of jilbab (headscarf) have cropped up again. On 28 November 1994, 50 students from Jakarta, Bogor, and Bandung, who united in the Komite Solidaritas Mahasiswa Islam (Solidarity Committee of Muslim Students), demonstrated in front of the French Embassy in Jakarta. Carrying placards, they protested about the fact that the French government had banned the wearing of the jilbab by students in France because this ban was a violation of the right to religious freedom and to human rights.
They considered the ban an inconsistent manifestation of the French government’s stance about its three underlying principles: freedom, equality and fraternity. They demanded the French government revoke the ban because it was in contradiction to human rights as these were laid down in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights of 1948. The police arrested 21 students, but they were then released after showing their identity cards. Most of them were students of the LAIN Jakarta, ITB Bandung, and IKIP Bandung.
The ban on the wearing of the jilbab for students in the state-funded secondary schools began when the French government, through its Education Minister, Francois Bayrou, issued a national circular concerning this on 20 September 1994. The policy led to the expulsion of 30 schoolgirls from their classes. This set off repercussions in all directions.In Indonesia, the case roused reactions after the French Ambassador to Indonesia Dominique Girard wrote an open letter in a newspaper to defend his government’s policy. A number of readers sent letters in response to that of Girard.
In his explanation Girard said that the decision was not a discrimination against Muslim schoolgirls, nor against Islam. He went on to say that French had to respect their common tradition, including the secularism of French schools because without this they could not protect minorities and would be faced by racism, rejection of different skin colours and religions in the future, a situation which they refused to contemplate. He drew attention to the fact that the ban was not imposed on any children at kindergartens and primary schools, students at universities, or the general public, or any guests visiting French embassies. (JP, RE, 7, 25, 29 Nov. 1994)
On 23 January 1995, more than a hundred female workers at Sanyo Jaya Components Indonesia (SJCI) lodged a complaint with the DPR because the company had intimidated them by various ways because they wore the jilbab. Among the tactics employed by the company management were isolation from other workers in a separated, tiny room with nothing to do and the threat of dismissal hanging over them. They were prohibited to eat together with other workers and they were always subjected to tight Control by the company’s security officers. They claimed that wearing the jilbab at their work did not inhibit their daily productivity. They did admit that they were still being paid their monthly wage.
The rumbles in the company had actually has begun in November 1994 when about 50 female workers were prohibit from wearing the jilbab, entering their work floor, eating, and performing prayers because they were not complying with the company uniform. At that time, Ahmad Sumargono of the KISDI had said that it was out-of-date to prohibit people to perform their religious duties” because their rights were guaranteed by the constitution and those who wore, “jilbab admitted that wearing jilbab apparently did not hamper their jobs. The company should thank God because they had workers with high ethical standards. Having said this, he promised to help them (PE, 14 Nov.; 2 Dec. 1994, 24 Jan.1995; RE, 18 Jan. 1995)
The female workers’ complaints to the DPR provoked reactions from some Muslim leaders, K.H. Hasan Basri of the MUI accused the SJCI of having violated existing regulations. The MUI itself had already issued a fanva about this matter. Basri urged the Ministry of Manpower to take a firm stance against the company and to hold an inspection into it immediately. A famous Muslim preacher, K.H. Zainuddin M.Z., was highly critical of the company’s action and stated that the action had been carried to excess. He suggested that both the labour union SPSI and the ministry should prepare muballighs (Muslim preachers) who would be on hand constantly to give dakwah both to the company and its employees. Similar reactions also came from the Muhammadiyah, the KMJ (Corps of Muslim Preachers of Jakarta), and the Assyafiiyah Schools of Jakarta. (MD, Feb., March; PE, 25, 27 Jan.; RE, 25 Jan., 3 Feb. 1995)
Then it was reported that about 37 female workers wearing the jilbab, worried that their fate was still unclear, had contacted their lawyer in order to bring the company to court. The Sanyo Electric Corp. in Japan issued a statement saying that the case bad been handed over to the local authorities in Indonesia. (PE, 30 Jan.; RE, 28 Jan. 1995) Be that as it may, up to the beginning of February, 1995 they were still banned from working. Responding to this, two prominent Muslim figures, K.H. Abdul Rasyid of the Assyafiiyah Schools, and Rusjdi Hamka of the Jakarta PPP, called on the Muslim community to boycott all Sanyo products because the company was still not prepared to grant its employees their usual rights.
On 8 February 1995, a delegation of DPR members, who visited the company, found that there were 450 female employees of its 3,800 employees wearing the jilbab. The majority of those who wore the jilbab were ready to take it off because they worked in a room with people of the same gender, while those who refused to take it off worked in a room with people of the opposite gender. (PE, 6, 9 Feb.; RE, 9 Feb. 1995) On 9 February 1995, the company management and the female employees reached an agreement which was signed at the Jakarta Office of Manpower. They agreed to modify the female workers’ clothes. They should wear trousers, fitted long-sleeve blouses, and short headscarves. (GA, 18 Feb.; HT, 14 Feb.; MD, March; PE, 11 Feb.; PM, 21¬28 Feb. 1995)
Source: INIS Newsletter Vol. XIII, 1997