Indonesian students cannot be forced to wear the Islamic veil, Jakarta Gov. Basuki "Ahok" Tjahaja Purnama told a group of educators.
Some 1,700 principals from the city's schools were meeting with the governor after feeling pressure from Muslim fundamentalist groups who want to make use of the hijab mandatory in school facilities, AsiaNews reported.
The governor, Christian and ethnic Chinese, said that he took the same position as the head of East Belitung district.
"That district is predominantly Muslim, about 93 percent. When there was a mass request to force female students to wear the hijab, I opposed it," he said.
"If you [as a Muslim] believe that this special garment represents your faith, then you are free to wear it. But you cannot demand everyone wear it if they do not want to," he said.
Indonesia is the world's most populous Muslim nation (over 200 million) but has a secular constitution that protects all faiths.