Remember meForgot password?
    Log in with Twitter

article imageThe Jilbab: Political Symbol or Fashion Accessory?

By Cristina Quiñones     Jul 4, 2009 in World
Although Indonesia does not have a tradition of Islamic dress, Muslim headscarves, referred to there as jilbabs, have garnered much of the attention in the weeks preceding the country’s presidential elections.
The controversy began a few months ago when current president Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono announced that he would no longer be running with Vice President Jusuf Kalla in this year’s elections. The significance of this separation lies in the fact that Yudhoyono’s wife, Kristiani Herawati, does not wear a jilbab while Kalla’s wife, Mufidah, does.
After the break, President Yudhoyono selected a man named Boediono, whose wife, Herawati, goes unveiled, to be his new vice presidential candidate. Kalla, on the other hand, switched from the Democratic to the Golkar Party and chose a retired general named Wiranto, whose wife, Rugaya, is veiled, as his running mate.
This jilbab controversy received worldwide attention after the wives of the Golkar Party candidates where featured next to their husbands on campaign billboards and posters while wearing their headscarves. According to The New York Times, the wives recently went on a jilbab shopping spree in one of largest markets in Jakarta, the nation’s capital and also recently published a book together entitled, “Devout Wives of Future Leaders.”
The wives of the Golkar candidates are not the only women wearing jilbabs. Although the use of the head scarves has increased dramatically over the past three years, many Indonesians argue that wearing a jilbab is a matter of fashion. According to The New York Times, Jetti R. Hadi, the editor in chief of Noor, a magazine specializing in Muslim fashion, explains:
“If you ask 10 different women why they’re wearing jilbab, you’ll get 10 different answers … You cannot assume that because a woman is wearing a jilbab, she’s a good Muslim.”
During these elections, the media has devoted little attention to the candidates' political policies and has, instead, focused primarily on the jilbab-wearing wives of the Golkar Party candidates. Meanwhile, the Golkar Party has vehemently denied allegations that its members are exploiting Islam to better their chances at the polls.
The jilbab has become an important issue in the Indonesian presidential elections because it is a symbol.
To some, it emblematizes oppression (Who can forget French President Nicolas Sarkozy's recent demand for a banning of the burka?). Others view the jilbab as a means for religious expression and as a testament to women’s power. In these elections, however, the jilbab has come to symbolize the tension between Indonesia's current secular government and the Islam-driven government that it had in the past.
In Indonesia, mainstream voters tend to reject Islam in politics because of the country’s history of military rule and fundamentalist Islamic politicians. In the decade since achieving democracy, Indonesia has only recently reached political stability. The issue of the jilbab cuts to the core of many people’s fear that Islam will once again return to politics. For the time being, however, it seems like this will not the case. Although some Muslim voters have gravitated to the Golkar Party because of the candidates’ jilbab-wearing wives, the polls predict that President Yudhoyono will be re-elected and that Islam-inspired policies will remain unfashionable in Indonesian politics for the time being.
More about Indonesia, Jilbab, Hijab, Elections, Political symbol
More news from