A kindergarten in Indonesia apologized after drawing massive controversy online for dressing up children in black jihadist-style costumes during a “cultural” parade as the country celebrated its Independence Day last Friday.
On Independence Day yesterday, a video of a schoolboy climbing a flagpole in west Timor went viral on Indonesian social media. Today another video went viral: kindergarteners in black niqab carrying guns joined Independence Day carnival in Probolinggo, East Java #17an #RI73 pic.twitter.com/yN9tdyZwz5
— Yenni Kwok (@yennikwok) August 18, 2018
The girls were made to wear black costumes and carry cardboard cutouts of rifles as they walk during the parade in Probolinggo, East Java, according to AsiaOne.
Kartika kindergarten principal Suhartatik explained that the costumes were taken from storage to lessen the cost for the girls’ parents. The garments were used in previous parades to teach students about the Prophet Muhammad’s faith and beliefs.
The principal also denied that the gun cardboard cutouts and full-body veils helped promote extremism.
Apakah negeri ini kekurangan busana adat yang bisa ditampilkan dalam karnaval Agustus ini?
— al (@rasjogja) August 18, 2018
“I never meant to teach violence to my students,” said the principal. “We only used the props that we already had to cut costs for parents. I deeply apologize.”
Many netizens, however, did not take her apology well.
One user questioned the principal’s explanation saying, “Nobody carried assault rifles in the prophet’s time – is this teacher that clueless about history or was she just trying to dodge the blame?”
Indonesian parliamentary Speaker Bambang Soesatyo also shared his piece on the matter and described what happened as a “very concerning case.”
“Ordering children to wear black veiled costumes and carry replica weapons gives a poor perception,” he told The Guardian via TIME. “Treatment like that could damage children’s ideas.”
The controversial cultural parade comes as Indonesia promotes itself as the host country of the 18th Asian Games, the largest multi-sport competition next to the Olympics.
Organizers of the event admitted that they were embarrassed by the negative impact of the girls’ costumes during the parade.
“I really apologize – I did not check beforehand. This was supposed to be a cultural parade,” chief organizer Supini said in a statement.