Lombok regent calls for civil servants to wear ‘fashionable’ niqab in place of mask
The regent of Central Lombok, West Nusa Tenggara (NTB) is requiring civil servants to wear the niqab (face veil adorned by many Muslim women) because they have not been wearing masks amid the COVID-19 pandemic, an approach he said has nothing to do with radicalism and is more of a “fashionable” choice.
Central Lombok regent Moh. Suhaili Fadhil first announced the plan in mid-June, saying that he saw many civil servants still refusing to wear face masks despite the ongoing coronavirus outbreak. The announcement, which was filmed, has since become a subject of public discussion.
“Some refused to wear masks for fear of running out of oxygen when their mouths and noses are covered,” Suhaili said this week.
“But in times of COVID-19 we need protection. So better to wear a niqab to protect your mouth and nose. This is for female and Muslim civil servants, everyone else should still use masks.”
Suhaili rejected concerns that the approach was connected to Islamic radicalism, and instead emphasized on the “fashionable” quality of the niqab and its use to help protect from potential transmissions.
Describing the plan as an internal requirement for female Muslim civil servants at his office, Suhaili said the requirement is akin to advisories on wearing face masks during the pandemic, and noted that it is not reflected in any official regulation or instruction.
“There’s no sanction, it’s just a fun and healthy approach. Don’t link this niqab requirement with religious teachings,” the regent said.
He hopes that the approach may inspire more health discipline among his staff, who are not required to wear a head-to-toe veil that also cloaks the body. The niqab covering, Suhaili said, is only expected to cover the nose and mouth. In addition, the regent also spoke of civil servants serving as an example to the wider public, hence his strategy to encourage better compliance of health protocols.
According to the latest provincial data, West Nusa Tenggara has recorded 1,283 COVID-19 cases, 116 of which are of patients in Central Lombok.
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