Banda Aceh/Kuala Lumpur. Authorities in Aceh have ordered Muslim flight attendants to wear headscarves when flying into the ultra-conservative Islamic province, officials confirmed on Wednesday (31/01).
Aceh is the only province in predominantly Muslim Indonesia to implement Islamic law. Muslims elsewhere practice a moderate form of the religion, leaving women free to choose whether to cover their heads.
The regional government, allowed greater autonomy under a 2001 peace deal with the central government, sent a letter to national carrier Garuda Indonesia and budget carriers, such as Malaysia's AirAsia and Firefly.
"All female stewardesses must wear a 'jilbab' [headscarf] Muslim fashion in accordance with the rules of sharia," the authorities said in the letter.
Sultan Iskandar Muda International Airport in Banda Aceh, the provincial capital, services dozens of domestic flights every week, and international routes to neighboring Malaysia and Saudi Arabia.
Non-Muslim flight attendants are not required to wear headscarves, but Muslim staff would be asked to wear them on flights in and out of Aceh, said Mawardi Ali, chief of Aceh Besar district, where the airport is located.
Garuda Indonesia and its budget arm, Citilink, "support the suggestions" and will comply, airline spokesman Ikhsan Rosan said.
AirAsia said in statement it was committed to ensuring that it met the rule and that for the time being, all its flights to and from Aceh would be operated by male cabin crew.
Firefly in Malaysia declined to comment, citing "the sensitivity of the matter."