Islamic organizations in Indonesia have voiced their complete rejection of a community of cross-dressing Muslim men wearing female Muslim attire, with one organization going as far as calling on the authorities to get involved in cracking down against the behavior.
Over the weekend, posts regarding the Islamic cross-dressing community have gone viral on social media in Indonesia, detailing the existence of a movement in which men wear the hijab (veil) and niqab (face cover) to conceal their identity as they infiltrate locations and situations usually reserved for Muslim women.
One Twitter thread, which has curated screenshots from alleged cross-dressers’ social media posts, went viral over the weekend. Based on the posts, the thread alleges that the cross-dressers, who are identified online as “crosshijabers” (based on the hashtag they used to post their photos on social media), have been wearing the hijab and niqab to go into women’s bathrooms and the women’s section at mosques.
The phenomenon has divided opinion online, with some defending the alleged cross-dressers’ right to freedom of expression, while others say that they, especially those whose faces are concealed, threaten the privacy — and even religious worship — of Muslim women.
“I don’t have a problem at all with the cross-dressers as long as they’re not from my family. But if they enter women-only locations, especially in the mosque, if the real women touch the cross-dresser then their wudhu becomes invalid and they won’t even know it. Do what you please but not at the expense of others,” the Twitter user above wrote, referring to the Islamic ablution for prayer, which may be invalidated by the touch of a person from the opposite sex (who is not a spouse or family member).
Islamic organizations in Indonesia have been less forgiving. Muhammadiyah, one of Indonesia’s and the world’s largest Islamic organizations, has called on the police to investigate the alleged cross-dressers.
“If they are a group suffering from psychological deviation, then they must be counseled. If they are men who deliberately dress like women with face veils, then that is unacceptable. But the solution remains that they must be given religious counseling.”
Other Islamic organizations like Nahdlatul Ulama, as well as the Indonesian Ulema Council (MUI) — the country’s highest clerical body — have also labelled the alleged cross-dressers as deviants.
Many social media accounts and posts containing the hashtag #crosshijabers have either been taken down or removed following after the movement caught the nation’s attention in recent days.
On Oct. 9, feminist publication Magdalene published an interview with crosshijabers in Indonesia, gaining an insight into their motivations for the behavior. In the article, titled, “Crosshijaber: Aku laki-laki, aku heteroseksual, dan aku berhijab” (Crosshijaber: I’m a man, I’m heterosexual, and I wear the hijab), one interviewee said he doesn’t know why he likes to wear female Islamic clothing other than for the loose-fitting garment’s ability to better conceal his masculine traits compared to other forms of clothing.
The article also highlights the existence of numerous online communities and chat groups consisting of crosshijabers, who say that they have had to be wary of criminal and social ramifications of exhibiting their behavior in real life.