A long time ago me and my family attended my cousin’s wedding reception located somewhere in the north region of Malaysia. As you all know, a Malay wedding ceremony celebrated in village area is typically modest and a humble one and usually attended by close families. So when we arrived there at my aunt’s house, they were still preparing some last minute preparation including the meal course. To kill the time, I mingled around with some young girls who appeared to be amongst the villagers who supposed to be helping with the preparation but did not do anything except sitting and chatting at some isolated corner for hours.
Though I didn’t condone their attitude, I had no choice but chatted with them simply to kill the time before the actual ceremony started. We talked about many things including politics and why people used the “macam anjing dengan kucing” idiom though it is obvious at present that dogs don’t usually chase cats. At one point, somehow one of the girls (I can‘t remember her name though) voiced out her personal opinion about present Muslim women. For the sake of our discussion here in this tudung blog, let’s just say that there were three girls; Haya, Fareeda, and Erra. So Haya said, “I am sure any of you can name at least 10 P Ramlee movies. If you recall any of those movies, did you realize that none of the women in them are wearing tudung though they are Muslim women? Why is that? Now fast forward to present days…how come the Muslim women are told to wear tudung? So that they would look uglier than usual?”
I was quite bewildered when I first heard her wicked critic. Obviously she didn’t wear tudung and if I recall correctly, she had quite a beautiful long and wavy hair. Just a few seconds later Fareeda broke the silence, “I agree with you. I remember when I was being reprimanded by one of the Ustazah when I was at Form 3. She told me that if I wore tudung, men would stop looking at me as a sex subject. But when I grew up more, I have learned that that is not at all true. Women still were raped by outlaws though they wore tudung! That’s why I decided not to wear tudung yet.”
The debate went on and on for a while. Erra who did wear a tudung said that her father actually encouraged her to wear tudung since she was kid. However, instead of forcing her to do so, her father brought her to tudung store and asked her to choose her own favorite. In other words, Erra eventually wears tudung on her own will and without anyone forcing her to wear it. Not even her grandmother who is a respected fellow in the village. Her grandmother even encouraged her to not wear the tudung unless she really wanted to do so.
“My grandma said there is no point wearing the tudung if you don’t have the courage. Once you wear tudung, you are telling others that you have your own vision and perception about the religion.”
I must say that I agree with Erra. Wearing a tudung is not like wearing another shirt or baju kurung. Apart from adhering to the religious requirement, you are also expressing yourself as someone who has a principle. You believe in what you are and what you are doing. Now let’s take it to another level; if you were wearing a sexy sleeveless shirt and you feel great wearing it, how would you feel if someone else came to you and said you shouldn’t wear that and instead gave you another shirt to wear? I don’t think so. As an adult woman with high self-esteem, you don’t like others to instruct you on what to wear and what not to wear. You will wear anything that makes you feel great and look great. Well, same goes to those who wear tudung. Why would you stop them just because you don’t like seeing them with tudung? Who is overreacting now; those who wear tudung or those who don’t like to see them?
Some even said that when more and more Muslim women are wearing tudung, they are going backwards against the tide. They argued that women should be given some freedom in showing what they want and what they like to wear. Well, I agree with the freedom part and to be honest, that’s what the religion is cheering about too. There shouldn’t be any kind of disparities between men and women. We are all the same in the eye of God Almighty. However, I don’t think that by wearing tudung we are going against the tide as that does not make any sense whatsoever. I wear tudung because I believe in it and I believe that I can discipline myself. I wear tudung as I believe that I could strengthen my faith to God.
In my humble opinion, this whole conversation could be triggered by the fact that fewer debate being conducted about Muslim men. They were seen as not having much restriction from the religion. This is not entirely true. Tudung is a word originated from the actual word “hijab”. Hijab means modesty in lifestyle, hence applies to all Muslim; women and men. Both men and women are supposed to lower their gaze and be modest. Lowering the gaze means that a man should always guard their modesty and therefore should always respect a woman by looking at the woman in a proper manner. What I’m trying to say is when a man sees a woman, he should never look at her to the extent that she would feel uncomfortable.
This is where the environment and the inner circle influences come in. Men, as we all know, tend to dominate in almost everything they touch. They want to take control and be in power and that is the reason why fewer discussions are available to dispute the idea of men and hijab. It’s always about women and hijab and this is absolutely wrong. Just like women, men should always guard their modesty and if both parties do the same thing, I believe that world would be a peace place to live in.
Today we have seen many types of tudung and just like the rapid movement of tudung business, the number of Muslim women in Malaysia wearing tudung has also increased significantly. We can see some women wearing tudung fareeda and some young girls wearing modern tudung ariani. There are also others wearing tudung calista and tudung chiffon. If we go further in shopping malls, there are also some women wearing tudung Donatello or tudung fareeda. I can also see some young modern Muslimah girls wearing tudung jakel and some even try to be a little bit glamorous by wearing tudung siti nurhaliza. No matter what kind of tudung they are wearing, they all look great and fantastic. None of them look “ugly” in my eyes. I define ugly as being someone who bad-mouthing others. That’s what ugly is and not what you wear. You can wear a sexy shirt or skirt but you will still look ugly to me if you don’t know how to respect others and act like an idiot.
Of course when we say that wearing tudung is all about religious action and to protect women from unwanted circumstances, we will also argue that there are other bad influences that should be taken care of as well. Such influences include how the community react to what the woman is wearing. The community should practice open-minded way of life rather than just “talk” about being open-minded. No one should be discriminated simply because of what he or she wears at public.
We have seen this kind of hypocrisy when Susan Boyle came for audition in Britain’s Got Talent. If you have seen the video clip, you will see how many people (including the judges) were so cynical when they look at Susan’s appearance. They thought that Susan is just another laughing stock and the pretense went on when Susan claimed that her dream is to be as famous as Elaine Paige, the great British Musical Theatre singer. Their first impression of that woman diminished instantly when Susan opened her mouth and sang I Dreamed a Dream from Les Miserables beautifully like a professional singer.
This world is full of hypocrisy and it even exists amongst us. Therefore it is best to withhold ourselves from judging others especially in terms of their appearances. Someone should not be stopped from practicing what he or she believes in; including wearing tudung. Start appreciating others in terms of their intelligence and charisma and I am pretty sure that the world will then be the greatest place to live in.