Sharia-friendly swimwear hits Indonesia's mainstream

In Indonesia, halal swimwear helps Muslim women venture into the water while professing their commitment to Islamic traditions. Increasingly, the modest attire has grabbed the attention of non-Muslim women.

By Yamko Rambe for Khabar Southeast Asia in Jakarta

May 23, 2012
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Despite being a Muslim-majority country, Indonesia has no women-only swimming pools where a hijab-wearing Muslima can cool off or exercise. The situation has created an opportunity for local designers to produce swimwear specifically for Muslim women.

  • An Indonesian woman wears a LeeVierra brand swimsuit. Modest swimwear that complies with Islamic law can easily be found in Islamic fashion shops and shopping malls nationwide. [Photos by Yamko Rambe/Khabar]

    An Indonesian woman wears a LeeVierra brand swimsuit. Modest swimwear that complies with Islamic law can easily be found in Islamic fashion shops and shopping malls nationwide. [Photos by Yamko Rambe/Khabar]

  • An Indonesian swimming in full-body swimwear that enables women to enjoy the water while observing their Muslim faith. The style is going mainstream in Indonesia, where non-Muslim women also appreciate the modesty and sun protection such suits provide.

    An Indonesian swimming in full-body swimwear that enables women to enjoy the water while observing their Muslim faith. The style is going mainstream in Indonesia, where non-Muslim women also appreciate the modesty and sun protection such suits provide.

Dian Yasmina Fajri was once fished out of a public swimming pool by the lifeguard who considered her swimwear inappropriate. Failing to find suitable swimwear that complies with her commitment to wearing a hijab, Fajri began designing one for personal use.

"I enjoy swimming, but I couldn't find (appropriate) swimwear. Wearing other things than swimwear is forbidden in public pools, so finally I designed a new kind of Muslim swimwear which covers the entire body except the face and hands. This design balances between modesty, safety and comfort. This design also corresponds to Islamic guidelines," she told Khabar Southeast Asia.

Islam encourages believers to maintain health and physical fitness through athletic activities. However, under Sharia, Muslims are required to cover up their awrats -- parts of the body considered intimate that can only be shown to one's spouse or relatives/friends of the same sex.

"Many were interested with the swimwear I was wearing. Since then I received orders from individuals who wish to use similar swimwear. In 2004, I received 30 orders per month," Fajri said.

She named her swimwear line after one of her children, Kanz, which means treasure in Arabic.

The origin of halal swimwear is uncertain, but in Indonesia, it's been à la mode since 2004. Many shop owners and entrepreneurs consider it a new fashion.

In Tanah Abang – a Jakarta district which hosts Southeast Asia's largest textile market – individual buyers and resellers flock to purchase all fashion-related items imaginable, from sewing supplies and fabrics to ready–to-wear clothing in bulk.

"At present, demand for my swimwear has reached 300 to 400 pieces per month. My resellers in Tanah Abang have also begun to produce swimwear themselves to cover the increased demand," Dian said.

Muslim swimwear is popular not only among Indonesian Muslims, but also non-Muslims and foreigners. And modesty is not its only virtue.

Irmalia Septiana, a student at the State Islamic University of Jakarta, said that halal swimwear provides freedom of movement and sun protection as well.

"Muslima swimwear is the solution for me to do my activities freely. As a Muslim, I duly cover my awrats; covering them is a part of my identity as a Muslim. I began wearing the Muslim swimwear in the first semester of my freshman year. At first, I felt that the main benefit of the long sleeves swimwear was to cover nearly my entire body from the sun and protect me from getting uneven sunburn," Septiana said.

Fajri said the clientele for her swimwear is diverse, and that she increasingly takes orders from non-Muslims.

"Before, my clients are those who committed to wearing hijabs, but now there are also integral swimwear orders from non-Muslims. I have clients who are Balinese, Hindu and Chinese Indonesians, those who love to swim but don't want to get sun-baked," said Fajri who now accepts orders from social networks such as Facebook. "I dream that one day the Miss Universe pageant contestant from Indonesia, who usually suffers public taunting, would wear Kanz integral swimwear instead of a bikini," she said.

Meanwhile, there are signs that Muslim swimwear is going international. In 2007, the Ahiida label, founded by Lebanese-Australian Aheda Zanetti, coined and patented the word "Burqini", a portmanteau of burqa and bikini to define the full-coverage swimwear they produce.

Carmen Pai Daschke, an American Muslim, recalls wearing leggings and a big prayer dress over a T-shirt to swim when she taught English in Morocco – an outfit allowed in Moroccan public pools, though not in Indonesian ones.

Exercise is important for Islamic women, Carmen, a professor of religion in the US city of Atlanta, told Khabar via Facebook.

"In Islam, we (women) are told that we must learn to swim, ride a horse, and use a bow and arrow. So for me, swimming is important," she told Khabar.

Reader Comments
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    • Rahma Ayu Maeka Putri
      October 3, 2013 @ 09:10:43AM
    • I like it! Hopefully swimsuits for Muslim women become more popular.
    • Mona
      September 25, 2013 @ 04:09:30AM
    • how can I contact you for making orders or marketing the product?
    • Saemond
      April 18, 2013 @ 05:04:07AM
    • good
    • Dian Yasmina Fajri
      January 10, 2013 @ 07:01:00PM
    • Thank you Khabar Southeast Asia, the article is very good. I hope next time you will cover the activities of Indonesian communities that are just as unique. Dian Yasmina Fajri
    • loppy
      July 18, 2012 @ 03:07:31AM
    • i think this is a great idea !!
    • muhammad baheqi
      July 18, 2012 @ 02:07:53AM
    • It is an obligation in line with religious Sharia guidelines.
    • said husin
      July 13, 2012 @ 11:07:52AM
    • agree....for that...
    • djoko budy hartanto
      July 11, 2012 @ 05:07:41PM
    • I support this.
    • herinad
      July 10, 2012 @ 09:07:03AM
    • i like it
    • sikati yasin
      July 8, 2012 @ 08:07:50PM
    • Praise be Allah. With a swimsuit for Muslim women, we as parents are happy because our children can enjoy the beach or swim without feeling uncomfortable. Please market the swimsuit to schools so that students can buy Muslim swimsuits and practice swimming with a more polite attire. Thanks.
    • suparno
      July 5, 2012 @ 11:07:16AM
    • This is an amazing idea and we need to support it..keep it up female Muslims of Indonesia.
    • Bg Adol Anak Himpunan
      July 4, 2012 @ 01:07:12AM
    • It's a good thing because men won't stare at them when they swim...because they will always cover themselves....
    • hidayat
      June 27, 2012 @ 04:06:50AM
    • Great idea! Keep going with this, so that Muslim women sustain a good image, through the availability of swimwear specially-made just for them!!!
    • yeron agapa
      June 26, 2012 @ 07:06:51AM
    • With the availability of religiously-acceptable swimwear like this, Muslim women will no longer be reluctant to take part in swimming exercise. They are modestly covered up, and they wouldn't have to worry that their bodies would become splotchy from the sun. And, of course, they are safe and comfortable to wear.
    • Nanek
      June 25, 2012 @ 07:06:44PM
    • It's a good but men don't look them when they swim
    • azis
      June 21, 2012 @ 08:06:21PM
    • It's oke ! As long as the Muslim women are happy. The men to much determined to women.
    • yudimanalu
      June 21, 2012 @ 08:06:46AM
    • There are many corrupt people in our country. Hurry up and crush them, so that our country is clean and free of “rats in suits”.
    • seahorse9
      June 16, 2012 @ 09:06:16PM
    • GREAT IDEA........HALAL SWIMMERS..HALAL FOODS....ONE MORE MANY TO GO......HALAL SPORTWOMEN...ETC..ETC......BUT SORRY NO BEAUTY PAGEANT.......HOW ABOUT ONE BUT NOT LEAST.....A SPECIAL MONEY ONLY TO BE TOUCHED BY ISLAM ONLY,,,THAN IT WILL BE ALMOST COMPLETE,,,,,,,HOW ABOUT IT...????
    • muji rahayu
      June 8, 2012 @ 10:06:50AM
    • I wish Muslim women all the best.
    • sobat yang setia
      June 8, 2012 @ 05:06:36AM
    • Yes, we’re looking for something that is safe and comfortable, so that everything about it is nice, including how it looks. Thanks!
    • alhikmah st
      June 8, 2012 @ 04:06:42AM
    • That’s a great idea and a respectable image for women when they are modestly attired. I agree with this for swimming activity, for both Muslim women and also non-Muslims.
    • irwan setiawan
      June 5, 2012 @ 08:06:37PM
    • Maybe there should be swimming pools just for women.
    • agus meppy wayne
      June 3, 2012 @ 11:06:56PM
    • Lots of civil disturbances have happened in Indonesia. There needs to be follow-up action in accordance with prevailing laws.
    • Khaty
      May 26, 2012 @ 08:05:26AM
    • Great!
    • Kamadevi
      May 24, 2012 @ 12:05:31AM
    • With the availability of religiously-acceptable swimwear like this, Muslim women will no longer be reluctant to take part in swimming exercise. They are modestly covered up, and they wouldn't have to worry that their bodies would become splotchy from the sun. And, of course, they are safe and comfortable to wear.

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