Sharia laws in Padang, Sumatra.
Further background to creeping sharia. In 2003 the city administration of Padang in west Sumatra issued a by-law requiring high school students to have profiency in the reading of the Koran. This law was then followed up with a decree that female students and civil servants wear headscarves in public, another that recommended crash courses in Islamic teachings during the Ramadhan fasting month, as well as study sessions every Sunday morning for students. Then in January of this year employees of the city were informed that they would have alms deducted from their salaries.
Many other towns and villages in west Sumatra have similar laws including ones that specify Koran reading ability as part of the requirments for primary school children to be able to move up to junior high school. Restrictions on female dress are also ubiquitous in the province.
The Mayor of Padang Fauzi Baha says:
Don't politicize the Padang mayoralty's intention to enact sharia law, we just want to help the people perform their religious teachings as guaranteed under state laws.
Obviously he means "force" where he says "help".
Does religion hinder the government's effort?...It even helps it, right? So if I do something related to religion...so people are more devout...it will surely help improve morality, thereby boosting regional development as security will be assured, adolescent delinquency can be curbed and crimes reduced.
One Sudarto, director of Pusaka, an n.g.o promoting pluralism explains:
What's happening in West Sumatra is like a trend to use religious symbols by heads of administrations to win the people's hearts...and other regions merely 'copy-paste' the bylaws from other regions on religion.
The Jakarta Post carried an interview with a Christian schoolgirl attending a state high school. Regarding the obligation to cover her head and wear the baju kurung (a traditional, long, flowing dress), she said:
I actually feel uncomfortable. I feel depressed and anguished because this is against my religion, but what can I do? Although I'm not (officially) obligated to wear the scarf, I would feel different from other students (if I didn't wear it) with only six students who are not Muslims here.
She said teachers told her that a Muslim school uniform was the dress code for all students, regardless of their religion. They said a student who did not wear the uniform would be fined Rp 5,000 (about 50 cents) a day.
Once, during the flag-hoisting ceremony, I didn't wear the scarf properly, with my hair still visible, and I was scolded by the teacher. When I told the teacher I wasn't a Muslim, I was told it was the same for everybody.
For about 3-4 weeks ago, the British Prime Minister visited Indonesia. In a discussion, he was mocked by one of Indonesian “Pondok Pesantren” students, “Why Australian people rejected women with scarf (jilbab)? Now we could look at that policy!