By YENNI KWOK
When Lies Marcoes heard that her daughter’s high school, in Bogor, Indonesia, required all female Muslim students to wear a head veil once a week, she was furious. Although she herself was a Muslim and a graduate of an Islamic university in Jakarta, she went to the school to object to the imposition of the religious uniform in a state school.
As a result of her protest, she said, the order was rescinded — though her teenage daughter decided to wear the head scarf anyway to fit in with her friends.
According to NY Times, about 400 kilometers away, in central Java, another parent, Tri Agus Susanto Siswowiharjo, says he would like to send his daughters to a public secondary school, but he, too, is worried that they would have to wear Islamic dress.
Mr. Tri Agus, a political communications lecturer at a rural-development college whose wife is Catholic, now sends his daughters to a private Catholic primary school. Although he is a Muslim, he said he believed that religion belonged in the private sphere and should not be imposed.
“If they want to learn about their religion, they can learn about it at home,” he said in an interview.
Many parents like Ms. Lies and Mr. Tri Agus say they expect public schools to be neutral and to reflect the multicultural heritage of a country that recognizes six religions.
But, in the past 10 to 15 years, schools have increasingly adopted policies that favor Islam, the majority religion, ordering Muslim students to wear Muslim-styled uniforms either every day or at least on Fridays, when Muslims go to mosque. Some schools also require Muslim students to recite verses from the Koran every morning before the lessons begin.
The rise of Islamic practices in public schools, mirroring a rise in fundamentalism across the country, makes parents like Ms. Lies and Mr. Tri Agus uneasy.
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