Islamic organizations in Indonesia voiced their concern this weekend over a group of Muslim men wearing religious female attire. One group called on police to start cracking down against such behavior.
The Asian news outlet Coconuts reported that several posts expressed concern over a viral trend in which men wear a hijab (veil) and niqab (face cover) to conceal their identity as they enter areas and situations typically reserved for Muslim women, including female bathrooms and women’s section at mosques.
“I don’t have a problem at all with the cross-dressers as long as they’re not from my family,” wrote on Twitter user. “But if they enter women-only locations, especially in the mosque, if the real women touch the cross-dresser then their wudhu (Islamic prayer) becomes invalid and they won’t even know it. Do what you please but not at the expense of others.”
The General Secretariat of Muhammadiyah, Indonesia’s largest non-governmental Islamic organization, told reporters yesterday that such men should be prosecuted.
“If there is a deliberate attempt to cause public unrest, then they can be processed legally,” Muhammadiyah General Secretary Abdul Mu’ti told reporters yesterday.
“If they are a group suffering from psychological deviation, then they must be counseled. If they are men who deliberately dress like women with face veils, then that is unacceptable,” he continued. “But the solution remains that they must be given religious counseling.”
Last week, the feminist publication Magdalene published a feature article with various “crosshijabers” in Indonesia to help gain an insight into their motivations. The article, titled, “Crosshijaber: I’m a man, I’m heterosexual, and I wear the hijab,” features one interviewee who explained that he appreciates the loose-fitting garment’s design of the hijab, which allows him to more easily conceal his masculine traits.
In a range of interviews, the men also detail the various online communities and chat groups used by “crosshijabers,” who share the mutual challenges they face, as well as the potential criminal and social ramifications of their behavior.
Despite being officially pluralist, Indonesia is home to 225 million Muslims, making it the largest Islamic country in the world. The country’s government also broadly adheres to Islamic law, leading to increasingly stringent blasphemy laws, with a rapidly growing trend towards strict interpretation and the violation of other people’s religious freedoms.