Muslim leaders in Indonesia have welcomed a recent decision by the national police to allow policewomen to wear the hijab while on duty, a move that promises to quell long-standing complaints.
On June 20th, National Police chief Timur Pradopo announced that he would revoke the ban, and he has since assigned a team to draft new rules on policewomen and hijab, The Jakarta Post reported.
"The team has been assigned to study public opinion and input from female officers. It will also consider suggestions from religious experts," National Police spokesman Ronny F. Sompie said.
Many Indonesians opposed the ban on wearing hijab by policewomen on duty, imposed in 2005 across the country, except in the province of Aceh.
Political parties and Islamic organisations such as the Indonesian Ulema Council (MUI) and Muhammadiyah had been calling for the restriction to be revoked.
"Wearing the hijab is a form of freedom of religion, and it is guaranteed in our 1945 Constitution," Muhammadiyah chairman Din Syamsuddin told Khabar Southeast Asia.
MUI Deputy Secretary-General Amir Shah told Khabar he is pleased by the recent decision by the Indonesian Police (POLRI).
"From the beginning, we (MUI) disagreed with the ban. I am glad that POLRI has reviewed the decision. They do not have any right to ban policewomen from wearing hijab while performing their duties," Amir said. "They are working to be good Muslims and good employees."
Not all agree with the decision, however. Some say that police personnel, who have a duty to all citizens regardless of religious background, should not be visibly affiliated with a particular faith.
According to Nia Elvina, a sociologist from the National University of Jakarta, the ban helped promote neutrality in a government institution.
"Policewomen are protectors for our citizens. They have to be neutral, and should not highlight a particular symbol of religion, education and economic status," she told Khabar.
Jakarta resident Susi Erdinati agreed that law enforcement should not be linked to religion.
"Policewomen should be able to interact with many people from many religious backgrounds. They must be available for anyone and not only for Muslims," she told Khabar. "It is better to keep all government agencies neutral. I believe it is also a kind of respect for those who are not Muslims," she added.
Supporters of the move, however, say that the sight of devout Muslim policewomen will raise Indonesians' respect for law enforcement.
"Wearing hijab should be regarded as implementing religious teachings, and it has a high moral orientation. It is also a positive element for the police. They are setting a good example for society," said Din, the Muhammadiyah chairman.
Jakarta resident Ardian Saragih told Khabar that the issue should be a matter of personal choice.
"If there isn't a specific security concern involved, it is better to give a woman an option to decide if she would like to wear the hijab or not," Ardian said.
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