We won 19 (Shariah-compliant) golds!

JUNE 18 — But they are real golds, ones soon minted in heaven — deserving both temporal and celestial accolades without reservations.

That’s right folks, if the 62 sports golds Malaysia collected during the 2015 SEA Games were sliced and diced to Shariah and non-Shariah compliant sections based on competition wardrobe, just as they do at Bursa Malaysia then the number of “above scrutiny” golds won would be 19 — which is also the average age of enlisted American soldiers in the war in Vietnam (A country which did markedly better than us, with or without Shariah-compliance; and yes, I am an 80s child).

After all Malaysia leads in financial Shariah-compliance therefore this would be just a natural extension. No Carlsberg or Magnum Corporation, just UEM or Sime Darby, easy enough to make distinctions, if you know your wardrobes in this case. (By popular convention, males have to cover from their navel to the knee and females close up except for the face and the hand after the wrist.)

Why this hullabaloo?

The past week, double-gold medallist Farah Ann Abdul Hadi has been the target of an army of “my brother’s keepers” seeking to admonish her for winning earthly possessions without a care for her spiritual spirit, in their minds. The gymnast’s aurat (shame) was allegedly on wanton display when she competed.

But before dissecting the horrors of being victimised for being a sporting success, a shout-out to both my peeps, PAS women’s wing chief Siti Zailah Mohd Yusoff and Minister in Charge of Islamic Affairs Jamil Khir Baharom. If ever there were people bent on saving us all from ourselves, they’d be ahead of the queue — and beating off the other do-gooders from leaning into their news-cycle. It helps that as parliamentarians they are exactly aware what is right at top as a major concern for the rakyat. They are cognisant that not all that lustres is truly gold, so they have to settle for 19.

The thing is if Farah is under the knife, so should all our athletes who participated in Singapore. Quite immediately her teammates when they won the team gold, especially Siti Nur Bahirah Ahmad and Nur Eli Ellina Azmi. They avoided the ire of Siti Zailah and Jamil Khir, probably because Farah did one better with the highly prized individual title, or in unfortunate terms, she went a gold too far.

And also that gymnastics is a highly visible sport due to a real global following at games, when compared to say the 10 golds dished for Petanque — pronounced like evening in Malay ending with a hard K — which was probably telecast in two ancient towns in France and Belgium. Actually a wardrobe change might help arouse viewers from sleep watching middle-aged men tossing large steel balls in sand pits.

So let’s not stop with Farah, Siti or Nur, because they were not the only Farah, Siti or Nur in our delegation to Singapore, let’s break down the golds and the sports.

A disclaimer, let’s not overemphasise the worth of excellence at a games involving 11 of the least sporting powerhouses in the world. And if only the Shariah-compliant golds count, then Malaysia finishes sixth just ahead of Myanmar. 

The reality hits better when in the biggest sporting competition in the world, The Football World Cup, Malaysia were demolished 6-0 at home two days ago in the opening round of the 2018 qualifiers to 118th ranking Palestine. 

It’s 2015 and Malaysia may as well dream like Mat Jenin about the 2022 Cup in Qatar.

Still wins beget wins, and qualified success is far sexier than confirmed failure.

The unacceptable golds

Let’s begin with the non-Shariah compliant sports.

Five golds crash down on gymnastics’ matted floor, as the three golds from artistic and two from rhythmic are dispatched to one of Dante’s levels of despair.

Let’s proceed with the other unnecessary golds.

Starting with the low hanging fruit — the swimming pool. Whether it’s diving, swimming or synchronised fun, all of them wear similar to their cousins in gymnastic plus a splash or two. That washes away 12 — the eight golds in diving, three in swimming and one in synchronised swimming.

Squash may be the flavour of Malaysia’s sporting greatness today, but there is no need for the four golds gained by both sexes prancing in a hot, sweaty cauldron of “indecency.”

The three gentlemen from track and field — actually field only as Malaysia found only discus, triple jump and high jump success — repeatedly  presented their shame inside the running track. Their three golds soar high into oblivion.

The men’s singles and women’s doubles champs in badminton find their two golds tangled up in the net, along with their shorts and skirts. More so since the Badminton World Federation (BWF) skirted around with the policy to force female players to put on skirts to mimic tennis — but the rule has been rescinded, but can we trust the mullahs there with their once-nefarious intentions for women, in this instance looking to increasing viewership by compromising modesty?  

That’s 21 already.

Hockey may have schoolkids in “fuller” kits around the country, but they seem to tighten up at the international stage, and even if our two teams strolled to the customary wins, this puritanical nation may not need the two they chipped in.

Nay to the two from cycling, even if it is from the same guy — Mohd Harrif Saleh — or mitigated by the urban legend that hours of training daily for years keep the lower abdominal protrusions of cyclists in check even with the tightest of bike shorts. My commiserations to the takraw regu for horse-smashing a victory after 10 years, because it won’t count.

The second biggest source of golds, sailing, will be cast away for now. The moral tides don’t favour them. They have good — or in this case, bad — company with our Water-skiing 11-year-old wunderkind Aaliyah Yoong Hanifah who laid tricks to a double-whammy.

The women’s basketball team. Of course they are technical-fouled out from the count.

And this leaves only the sport which got itself into a 7-10 split, bowling, as its women and their two golds are foiled by their immodest clothing.

These are the golds that matter

National gymnasts Tan Ing Yueh (left) and Farah Ann Abdul Hadi posing with their medals at the 28th SEA Games in Singapore, June 10, 2015. ― Bernama pic
National gymnasts Tan Ing Yueh (left) and Farah Ann Abdul Hadi posing with their medals at the 28th SEA Games in Singapore, June 10, 2015. ― Bernama pic

Mindful that a really narrow interpretation of the immodest dress according to Siti Zailah and Jamil Khir would rule out almost all Malaysian athletes, in the spirit of competition and being good sports I’ve relaxed the requirements to be Shariah-compliant.

(I mean who has not heard about the evening sports festivities at PAS Muktamar and generally at the party’s social programmes?)

Clean in is archery. Resplendent, regal and never needing to shed too much to hit the bullseye of victory with five golds — classy and in sync with theology.

The male bowlers need no exposed legs in the alley to strike joy in our hearts and a valuable three golds are yielded by them.

Best dressed — fulfilling the observation that more on is far more attractive — are the snooker players with two golds and the solo equestrian winner. Vests in a club, and riding jackets on the course, how so elegant!

The five golds from the martial arts sports — silat’s three and Wushu’s two — are polite additions. You really don’t have to show flesh to maul the other guy. They are reloaded with the two from shooting.

And then there is the single Petanque win. The less is said about that win, and the eight Thailand piled up in the event, the better the argument.  Do you really want to know that the last world championship was in Tahiti with 48 nations and 192 players? 

If I knew earlier I might have had a moratorium on my objection to the French testing their nuclear weapons in the Pacific during competition week.

Bringing a neat 19 out of 62, but they are like Caesar’s wife beyond moral reproach.

How’s that, sport?

With clear distinction of the moral value of the golds from the SEA Games and for future sporting events, those who have objections are clear of which wins to celebrate and which ones to ignore. All thanks to the new Shariah-compliant sports wardrobe index. No more false heroes.

If dress trumps everything then at least there will be clarity and social conservatives don’t have to waste time putting out a full-centre page ad congratulating the next Thomas Cup winning team from Malaysia.

But do note that only 8 of the 19 acceptable golds are Olympic sports, in direct comparison to the 38 out of the 43 non-Shariah compliant golds.

Prevailing sports in our globalised society appear to have wardrobes incongruent with a section of Malaysians.

Within that narration is the reality that of all of the medals Malaysia has ever won at the Olympics, none of them would be Shariah dress compliant. How does that sit with Siti Zailah, Jamil Khir and the others who won’t fathom diversity or free will?

This was always going to happen after the years when beauty pageants were ruled out of bounds for Muslim girls because of the swimsuit round.

The next SEA Games is in Malaysia in 2017, perhaps Jamil Khir should utilise some of the large allocations to his department to educate the other Association of Southeast Asian Nations countries on why their idea of modesty in sports should trump the need for such sports. Maybe with the right minister for the sports ministry by 2017 we can have the first fully Shariah-compliant regional competition. 

I’ll be in Tahiti then, or an asylum with posters of Tahiti and nuclear explosions.

* This is the personal opinion of the columnist.