Despite the fact that Indonesia is the biggest Muslim majority country in the world (with Muslims making up more than 80 percent of its population), hijab* has a long history in Indonesia. Compare to other Muslim-majority countries where the wear of hijab is enforced by government law or society punishment, many Muslim women wear hijab, reflecting the call in the Koran to cover themselves and be modest. But not in Indonesia. Along with its historical backgrounds, Indonesian Muslim women did not historically cover their heads. Moreover, the wearing of hijab was actively discouraged for three decades during the authoritarian dictator Suharto's New Order regime.


In Suharto era, Muslim women were not obliged to veil themselves. In 1980s, the hijab was forbidden in state-owned schools and universities; And those who chose to wear hijab were known as the head-veiled women activist, otherwise they would be issued from the schools. In 1980s, almost all Muslim girls and women in debates on secularism, religion, and they were haunted by fear. Nevertheless, the government and politicians controlled women's hair and bodies in the name of Islam. Achievement and role of hijab during Suharto regime is hardly known.


Nowadays a lot of things has changed. After Suharto's fall in the late 90s, hijab became a symbol of freedom, freedom of dignity for Indonesian Muslim women. More and more Indonesian Muslim women wearing hijab and there is increasing interest in wearing hijab. All of sudden, hijab becomes a trendsetter and an icon of beauty, humility, and modesty. And for the last ten years, there's a huge demand of hijab market in which the market for the hijab has undergone a dramatic transformation. 

Hijab becomes cultural. A variety of fashions for the hijab have been created and designed to attract youngsters in particular to wear a hijab and in order for them not be seen as old-fashioned. This phenomenon has resulted in several hijab styles and Islamic Fashion Festivals, not to mention more than five or seven Muslimah beauty contests were held in Indonesia within a year. Various fashion styles and beauty contests has been held with the premise that Muslim women can still appear smart, stylish, and beautiful even though their whole body is covered up.


For the last 5 years, there's a thriving hijab fashion scene in Indonesia. Hijab fashion has become a growing cultural export. With the global Islamic fashion market estimated to be worth US$322 billion by 2018, Indonesia's Ministry for Tourism and Creative Economy has thrown its weight behind a campaign 

Indonesia as the Mecca of World's Muslim fashion by 2020. 


Glamorous Muslim fashion gradually turns into a sensation and fashion icons. It raises a public debate when hijab becomes fashion opportunity instead of a command to Allah to Muslim women. And yet, the scary image of Islam is being attenuated by this glamorous Islamic fashion, displacing the narrative of suicide bombs and Islamic terorist. Aside from Islam and terrorism or how muslim treatment of women, I see the real beauty of women in their hijab. hijab became a symbol of freedom. I can see a freedom of dignity for Indonesian muslim women, a freedom to choose what they really want to wear through fashion hijab and beauty contest. I can see how hijab make women beautiful, more than what my eyes can see. 


(Beautiful Islam, 2012 - 2014)

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