Tradition: a misguided argument against mandatory hijab

Also published on Wordpress.

Yes, it is indeed a widely-used argument. But, believe it or not, popularity does not and will never determine rightness. A million people can be wrong. Well, ‘wrong’ is too broad of a word; ‘ignorant’ is more fitting accurate.

I hate it when ‘traditions’ are used as arguments against novelties. If I ask you to define the word, you would probably answer it as ‘old’ things; my dictionary defines it as things that have been around for many generations. The more I think about it, the more I don’t see how any of those definitions support the arguments.

Old things used to be young. Being passed from one generation to another means there was a starting point. Those definitions insinuate that traditions started as novelties which existence were initially opposed by the reactionary voices in their respective societies, insinuate that novelties will become traditions later in the future.

Of course, one may also argue novelties must be conceived within our own borders. We should never let foreign powers dictate our identities and we must always thrive to be ourselves. If you are an Indonesian Muslim, why become an Arab? But, too bad humans don’t live in vacuums.

Of all the things we consider as traditional to certain places, lots (and, depending on your backgrounds, probably the majority of them) are “foreign”. The traditional food we eat and the traditional arts we pretend to care about would probably would not exist without outside influences.

If you think your country is unique, just remember it is not the only one that has Mother Nature in its mythology, not the only one that has flutes and drums among its traditional music instruments and it is certainly not the only one where cheese, noodles and fried battered foods are traditionally eaten.

Of course, as an Indonesian, I can use my country as an example.

This land of Austronesians (and Melanesians as well) has been influenced by foreigners since forever. Mie ayam, nasi goreng and pangsit would not exist without the Chinese. Sindhens, gulais and Garuda would not exist without the South Asians. Keroncong, tanjidor and pastel would not exist without the Portuguese. Klappertart and kastengel would not exist without the Dutch. Nasi kebuli and martabak would not exist without the dreaded Arabs. Apart from the English loanwords, our national language is also laced with Indian, Chinese, Dutch, Portuguese and, yes, even Arabic ones.

Islamic extremism is indeed something to be fearful about. But, it is pointless to fear Arabisation when some of our supposedly beloved ancestors ‘endured’ it and, in fact, had their identities enriched thanks to it.

Okay, it is a very simplistic statement. Foreign influences can both enrich and devalue our heritage. It depends whether the existing traditions are ‘improved’ or wiped out entirely. But, in the context of the previous paragraph, I solely use the word ‘enrich’ because some Indonesians don’t realise that their so-called beloved heritage has Middle Eastern influences in it.

Should I also mention that Islam is a religion of fucking Middle Eastern origin? I mean, if they really fear Arabisation, why don’t they ditch a religion that uses Arabic as its fucking liturgical language and start practicing animism like their ancestors did?

In case you haven’t noticed, I draw a strict line between Arabophilia and Islamic extremism. The former is an entirely secular endeavour while the latter often goes along with the embrace of Arab culture… or to be precise, what they feel is Arab culture.

In reality, there is no such thing as Arab culture, only cultures. Plural. A country is considered ‘Arab’ because it uses literary Arabic as its national language, NOT because of its cuisine, clothing, arts and brand of Islam. The Maghreb, the Horn of Africa, the Arabian Gulf and the Levant are culturally and religiously distinct from one another.

If you actually learn the basics of Arab cultures, you would realise those Muslim extremists have little knowledge about the traditions; if they really are into them, they would wear agal, eat hummus, drink Arak, watch MTV Arabia, do belly dancing and, you know, actually speak Arabic as their fucking first language!

And, just like the Islamists, many moderate Muslims also know nothing about Arab cultures. They see long white garments and hear Arabic-sounding words and they think the Arabs are invading! While I am with their anti-extremist stances, I despise how they use this crisis to justify their anti-Arab prejudice.

Moderate Muslims constantly claim they are against prejudice despite their blatantly prejudiced attitudes.. How can you defend yourselves from your barbaric enemies when you keep pointing the guns towards your feet? How can you fight the epidemic when you falsely see yourself as immune?

Also, those people forget how Indonesia is being infiltrated by contemporary western cultures which have done a great job wiping out our traditions. While the west is indeed more free than the Arab world, the double standard is too infuriating for any reasonable humans to ignore.

And I haven’t talked about the misogyny yet.

The title of this article clearly says ‘mandatory hijab’. I believe the amount of exposed hair and skin is none of our business. It is entirely up to them if they want to wear shorts and show their cleavages. If the sight of skimpily-dressed women is too distracting for you, just simply avert your gaze! Your problem, not theirs!

And the same thing can be said about hijab.

Unless the women are involved in activities where covering up can possibly result in bodily injuries, the amount of covered hair and skin is also none of our business! It is up to them if they prefer to cover their hair and skin. If the sight of ‘modest’ fashion is too distracting for you, just simply avert your gaze! Once again, your problem, not theirs!

There is a frequently-touted rhetoric that hijab is inherently oppressive which means literally every hijabi is an oppressed, rescue-worthy woman and banning the garb is the only mean to do so. This so-called expression of feminism champion women’s rights to wear anything they want… by taking their right to wear anything they want.

Such rhetoric is often divulged either by westerners or Uncle Toms who romanticise the west. I have never heard it being embraced by my fellow Indonesians and, frankly, I am not surprised. Unlike westerners who champion oppression of women under the pretense of feminism, Indonesians never bother to do so.

Heck, they even never bother utilising the anti-extremism pretense. Indonesians, including the ones who identify as moderate Muslims, are very open about their misogyny. They are proud of their endeavours of championing subservience among housewives and holding women to higher standards of sexual mores than men… and they are certainly proud of their shaming of women who cover up and refuse to fulfil the ‘traditional’ dress codes.

No, I don’t think Indonesian moderate Muslims are as bad as the extremists; the former certainly have stricter morals than the latter. Between those two factions, taking sides would not be much of a dilemma. But, both still have some things in common with each other and anti-feminist approach to life is certainly one of them. They are holding the country back from becoming more civilised.

To summarise my rambling…

Using Arabisation to justify one’s anti-hijab sentiment is uneducated, prejudiced and misogynistic.

Uneducated because it falsely thinks humans live in vacuums and pretends that intercultural interactions is a recent human phenomenon.

Prejudiced because it is an excuse to dehumanise the ‘others’.

Misogynistic because it is used to shame women for refusing to dress ‘traditionally’ and preferring to dress like ‘foreigners’.

You geniuses will never be the ones who defeat extremism and you certainly will never be the ones who advance women’s rights.

.

.

.

.

.

.

.

.

Donate to this deadbeat, preachy blogger on Patreon.