Saturday, January 16, 2010

Indonesian clerics ban women from hair-styling, but don't throw out your straighteners yet

In their latest fatwa, a group of Indonesia's fun-loving Muslim clerics have outlawed pre-wedding photos and banned women from straightening their hair or using motorbike taxis.

At a meeting in East Java, 250 clerics agreed that it should be forbidden for women to change their hairstyle lest they attract members of the opposite sex, according to the Jakarta Post.

Rather strangely, the clerics also moved to bar women from working as motorbike taxi - or "ojek" - drivers. "Women are not allowed to become ojek drivers because it would be hard for them to avoid sinful acts and matters that could lead to slander," said preacher Tohari Muslim.

I've yet to see a female ojek driver but presumably the clerics are scandalised by the mere thought of it. For good measure, they've also banned women from using ojeks.

"It is also haram for women to take ojek because her skin could brush against that of the opposite sex, she could expose her aurat, or be in close proximity to male ojek drivers in deserted places," explained Muhammad Nabiel Haroen , the clerics' spokesman.

The interesting thing is that, unlike in Malaysia where the government has been pandering to the more extreme clerics in an attempt to shore up its Malay/Muslim support base, such rulings have no legal significance in 86 percent of Muslim but secular Indonesia (except in Aceh, which has adopted Shariah).

As the cleric's spokesman admits: "The edict is binding for all Muslims in Indonesia, but it's up to individuals to abide by it because Indonesia is not an Islamic state."

Contrast that attitude with the Malaysian government's decision to ban non-Muslims from using the word Allah to describe god.


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