The video went viral, picked up by local and national media, prompting many netizens to protest the West Sumatra school and education office. Indonesia’s Minister of Education Nadiem Makarim posted a video that condemned the mandatory hijab rule and told the local government to have the school change its policy.
The school complied, creating an exception to the hijab rule for Christian students. Over the last two years, the number of Christian girls who dared shed the hijab grew.
But at the same time, Hia started receiving threatening messages on his Facebook and WhatsApp accounts.
The threats ranged from demanding his expulsion from West Sumatra to accusing him of disrespecting Islamic culture. One WhatsApp user reminded him of what happened to minorities between 1816 and 1833, when “Muslim ulamas” instituted Sharia (Islamic law) and used violence against those opposing them.
Hia’s air conditioning business started losing customers. “I used to have 200-something customers,” he said. “Some customers asked me whether I was the one who was protesting the mandatory hijab rule. And they stopped requesting my services.” He dismissed his five employees, sold his truck and mini bus, struggling to pay his bank loan.
In November 2022, Hia and his wife decided to sell their house while waiting for their daughter to finish high school. “I cannot earn enough money now. We have to move out of West Sumatra.”