Islamic militancy

Indonesian kindergarten dresses girls as Islamic State-style jihadis

Independence day parade in Indonesia features girls in black robes and replica rifles – but head teacher denies trying to ‘instil violence’ in them

PUBLISHED : Monday, 20 August, 2018, 12:34pm
UPDATED : Monday, 20 August, 2018, 12:34pm

A kindergarten in Indonesian has been criticised for dressing girls up in black, Islamic State-style costumes and replica rifles for an independence day parade, with organisers forced to apologise for the embarrassing gaffe.

Photographs of the 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 cut-outs of guns.

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

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“We raised the theme of the struggle of the Prophet to increase faith and devotion to Allah,” said kindergarten head Hartatik.

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 August 17, in the world’s largest Muslim-majority nation.

Asked to explain why the kindergarten had chosen the costumes, Hartatik admitted 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 jihadi-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
Lieutenant Colonel Kav Depri Rio Saransi

“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.

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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 country’s rich cultural diversity.

The Probolinggo parade is an embarrassing gaffe for Indonesia as it works to show its best face to the world through the huge sporting event involving 45 countries, the largest of its kind after the Olympics.

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.”