Hairdos now in Indonesia Muslim clerics' crosshairs

Thu Jan 21, 2010 4:04am EST
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By Sarah Hunt

JAKARTA (Reuters Life!) - To straighten or not to straighten? Women's hair styles have become a hot topic for Indonesia's Muslims after calls from some Islamic clerics to have the procedure banned on the grounds it invites moral danger.

Indonesia is a majority Muslim but officially secular country known for its moderate form of Islam.

Islamic edicts have no binding legal power, but that has not stopped the Indonesian Council of Ulama, which consists of elected clerics and scholars, from issuing fatwas on practices ranging from yoga to failing to vote in elections.

On Wednesday, the council's Fatwa Commission said it had received a request from a group of clerics linked to a girls boarding school in East Java to issue a fatwa banning chemical hair straightening, a type of perm treatment known in Indonesia as rebonding.

The deputy secretary of the Fatwa Commission, Aminudin Yakub, said on Wednesday that the East Java Forum Musyawarah Pondok Pesantren Putri had requested a formal edict declaring rebonding a breach of Islamic law "except for women who are married and have the permission of their husband."

The boarding school clerics had also asked for a fatwa banning dreadlocks, punk do's and "funky hairstyles" he said.

"For now, we are yet to make an institutional decision on this. So far, we have not seen strong evidence to ban it," he said. "It could be discussed in future but right now it is not a priority."

Hair salons in downtown Jakarta were bustling with young Muslim women, bemused by the sudden interest in their hair.   Continued...