Fashion, race and religion


The problem is, with the tudung on, the wearer carries an additional religious identity, and comes under heavier moral pressure.

Tay Tian Yan, Sin Chew Daily

IN THE BEGINNING, we went to school in her baju kurung.

But in the end, she was ordered to leave her school.

Her guardian complained that since the victim was not a Malay and her teacher barred her from wearing baju kurung at school.

But the school authorities explained that non-Malays had never been banned from putting on baju kurung.

We all have no idea what actually took place in between, although many could come up with a convenient conclusion of racism.

Are you certain? To be honest, I am not really that certain.

All that I know are only the front and final parts but nothing in between. This blank “in-between” is actually very important.

For example: What is that teacher’s race?

If the teacher was a Chinese or Indian or a Sarawakian aboriginal, then this whole thing will have nothing to do with racism, right?

Or, if all non-Malay students in the school are prohibited from wearing baju kurung, or just this girl?

And if only this girl is not allowed to wear while there is no problem with other non-Malay students, then the thing may not have much to do with racism, too.

Or rather it was not a problem of baju kurung but how it was put on, or because of the buttons or the underwear’s color.

What I was trying to say is that the Malaysian society is very funny: anything that may not be related to race could be perceived from the racial perspectives.

So, this could just be a matter of school discipline that has been given a racist hue as soon as it goes to public forums.

This reminds me of the incident of non-Muslim students made to dine in the toilet during Ramadan.

Subsequent follow-ups showed that the school’s principal was not that biased at all but was rather moderate and open-minded, treating Muslim or non-Muslims in the same way. Indeed the school canteen was under renovation when the incident took place while the so-called “toilet” where non-Muslims dined was actually a changing room.

But the thing is, the moment this issue was fired up, everyone would tend to focus only on “race” without slowing the slightest interest in what really took place.

Even though in the end it was proven the whole thing had nothing to do with racism, many still chose not to accept the fact.

Over time people have become obsessed with racism, making our country one that is increasingly polarized and segregated.

The next time something like this happens, please find out the truth first before jumping to a conclusion.

I was thinking this could be just another prerequisite of a moderate society.

Of course I sympathize with the 15-year-old student. Whatever reason that is being cited, the teacher should not have expelled the student just because of a fashion issue.

I have to reiterate that this is an issue of overdiscipline, not necessarily racism.

ALSO ANOTHER FASHION issue, tudung-clad Malay teenagers have been censured for having intimate interactions with male K-pop stars. The religious department wanted them to “turn in themselves” or face arrest.

What I want to say is that these handsome Korean singers attract not only Malay teenagers but majority of young girls all over the world, including some who are far from being young.

When a younger meets a good-looking chap, in particular an idol, will often lay down their self defense to any form of flirting. And this is very much humanity.

But once the excitement is over, everything will be back to normal.

It is not a matter of morality nor “shamelessness.”

The problem is, with the tudung on, the wearer carries an additional religious identity, and comes under heavier moral pressure.

If the interactions have been inappropriate in the context of this country, or does not conform to religious teachings, an advice often works better than arrest.