Jilbab Paris

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In “Reading Google in Jakarta,” a Foreign Policy piece I published yesterday, I addressed the politicization of the Muslim head scarf in Indonesian politics.  Tomorrow Indonesia will host its second-ever Democratic presidential election. Candidate and incumbent Vice President  Jusuf Kalla has brought the issue of “Jilbab” –the Bahasa term for the Arabic “hijab,” or head scarf– to the forefront of electoral debate.  As covered in the July 2 New York Times article, “Head Scarf Emerges as Indonesia Political Symbol,” the issue has broadly reignited the question about the role of Islam in modern Muslim democracy, and its public or private religious importance.

While putative media opinion has been that the Golkar party’s tactics are winning them support, that depends on the demographic.  For the 13 million Indonesians on the Internet –largely young Muslims with the same global Facebook curiosity and Google predilections– online tools indicate otherwise.  As outlined in my piece yesterday, while “Jilbab” references on Facebook have increased three-fold, Google queries have declined by 20 percent over recent months.  And despite the media bandwagoning over the substantive debate surrounding “Jilbab” in politics, for online voters, Google search remains focused on “Jilbab Paris,” and “Jilbab Cantik,” (pretty) by increasing proportions. Between substance and style, the New York Times might have been more accurate to reference the latter when highlighting the issues of politically engaged Muslim youth online.

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