Tue, Aug 21, 2018 - Page 5 News List

Indonesian kindergarten criticized over costumes

The Guardian

A kindergarten in Indonesian has been criticized for dressing girls up in black, Islamic State-style costumes and replica rifles for an independence day parade, while organizers apologized for the incident.

Photographs of the “cultural” parade in the city of Probolinggo, East Java, on Saturday showed lines of young girls marching on the street wearing niqab-style black veils, carrying cardboard cutouts of guns.

The head of the TK Kartika kindergarten in Probolinggo apologized “deeply” for the costumes, expressing regret over the decision and saying they were not trying to “instil violence” in the kindergarten children.

“We raised the theme of the struggle of the prophet to increase faith and devotion to Allah,” kindergarten head Hartatik said when asked to explain the attire.

The Probolinggo kindergarten is on the site of an Indonesian military complex, and Saturday’s parade took place a day after independence day, which falls on Aug. 17, in the world’s largest Muslim-majority nation.

Asked to explain why the kindergarten had chosen the costumes, Hartatik said they had pooled props from previous years to save money.

“We used it to save funds,” Hartatik told BBC Indonesia. “[We] never thought about the impact. The important thing is to take part in the parade, that the children were happy, using the existing property.”

The kindergarten head did not offer any explanation as to why the jihadist-style costumes had been used in previous years.

Speaking at a media conference following uproar over the event, Probolinggo military commander Lieutenant Colonel Kav Depri Rio Saransi said the parade was purely to educate the students about the “struggle of Islam,” but was not intended to promote religious radicalism.

“There is not the slightest bit of radicalism. I emphasise that purely there is no such thing as an element of intentionally showing the existence of radical activities,” he said, before offering a further apology.

Images and videos of the parade went viral on social media in the country and hit the same day that Indonesia opened the 18th Asian Games in a spectacular ceremony in Jakarta, which celebrated the nation’s rich cultural diversity.

News of the Probolinggo parade has also reached the Indonesian parliament, with House speaker Bambang Soesatyo describing it as an “inappropriate spectacle.”

“Ordering children to wear black veiled costumes and carry replica weapons gives a poor perception,” he said. “Treatment like that could damage children’s ideas.”

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