PETALING JAYA, Sept 12 — Muslims here are increasingly preoccupied with sex even as Islam becomes more conservative in Malaysia, a women’s rights activist said today.
Norhayati Kaprawi, who is also a filmmaker, noted that Malay society in the past did not have a problem with women and men mingling, and that Malay women used to wear tight kebayas without being perceived negatively.
“Now with Islamisation, Malays are starting to adopt a foreign mindset with the way Arabs look at things,” Norhayati told a forum titled “Siapa bilang gadis Melayu tak melawan?” (Who says Malay women don’t fight back?) organised by Projek Dialog at the Art for Grabs festival here.
“Now it’s ‘Cannot look at women, scared we’ll commit adultery’. These days, we always think about sex. With Islamisation, we shouldn’t be thinking about sex, but the opposite is now happening. When men and women sit next to each other — we think about sex. Malays back then never thought such things,” she added.
Islam as is practised in Malaysia is beginning to show signs of increasing conservatism, illustrated among others by the local boom in the tudung industry that was a rarity just several decades ago.
Friday sermons sanctioned by the government also repeatedly tell women to cover their aurat, with a Malay-Muslim gymnast recently getting backlash for wearing a leotard.
Norhayati, who has made a documentary titled “Aku Siapa?” (Who Am I?) about why women wear the tudung, noted that Muslim women now are thought of as “tak sopan” (improper) if they do not cover their heads.
“If you wear tight clothing, you’re not thought of well; you’re perceived as ‘sundal’ [a slut]. But in the old days, wealthy women used to wear tight kebayas and sheer clothing. Nobody thought of them as bad women. The image of women has shifted,” said the activist.
Human rights lawyer Fadiah Nadwa Fikri said Malays have criticised her over her work and linked it to her wearing a headscarf.
“They’d say ‘What’s this woman doing wearing a tudung but fighting the cops?’ They’d say I have no manners,” she said at the forum.
Fadiah Nadwa noted that there were negative perceptions overseas too about her wearing the tudung.
“They’re shocked when they see me in tudung and talking about human rights. They come up to me and say ‘You speak English’,” said the lawyer.