Yogyakarta (AsiaNews / Agencies) – On the back of harsh criticism an Islamic university which had banned its female students from the full veil, or niqab, has made a u-turn. Last week, the Sunan Kalijaga State Islamic University of Yogyakarta, on the island of Java, had imposed a ban on 41 girls, fearing them the possibility of being expelled if they did not comply with the provision.
The institute, which has about 10 thousand students, said that the now cancelled rule was aimed at countering religious extremism in the world’s most populous Muslim majority country. “The resolution concerning female students wearing a veil covering their faces will be revoked, to maintain an academic climate conducive to fairness”, says a statement released by the university.
The rule had sparked heated debate in Indonesia. Those in favour say that wearing a full-face veil with a small eye slit does not constitute a religious obligation, but critics have recognized in the anti-niqab appeal an “attack on the individual rights of young people”.
Another university in Yogyakarta, Ahmad Dahlan, also invited female students not to wear the niqab, while in the past several Indonesian universities have issued bans. Although the niqabs are common in the ultra-conservative Saudi Arabia and some other Gulf States, they are rare in Indonesia, where about 90% of its 260 million inhabitants profess a moderate form of Islam, and are often seen as unwelcome Arab export.