Campaigning for the upcoming presidential elections in Indonesia is set to wrap up on July 8 with the usual bells and whistles: speeches, rallies, and, of course, campaign posters. One set of posters is notable because it features the wives of the Golkar Party candidates with their hair covered -- and The New York Times reports it's become a lightning rod for the campaign. Arguments have centered on whether the Golkar Party is trying to turn the jilbab into a political symbol -- and use religion as a wedge to divide the electorate.
French President Nicolas Sarkozy also recently caused a stir by using his very first parliamentary address (and, in fact, the first any president has given since 1848) to talk about banning the burqa in France. Of course, the burqa is not the same as the jilbab -- the burqa covers the entire body and the jilbab is a head covering -- but Sarkozy also focused on its symbolic meaning, saying that it was not a religious symbol but "a sign of subservience, a sign of debasement."
In Indonesia, though, the tradition of wearing the jilbab is not as widespread, and the meaning of it's appearance in this presidential election is not clear. One of the most salient points is made by Jetti R. Hadi, the editor of fashion magazine Noor. "If you ask 10 different women why they're wearing jilbab, you'll get 10 different answers," she told the Times.
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