I was deeply amused by Umm Zakiyyah’s recently published article entitled ‘Good Muslims Don’t Think About Sex’. The absurd reaction shown by the assistant teacher against an innocent little girl’s dream ‘to be a mommy ‘is a good and practical reminder to us that, in reality, there are still many Muslims out there who tend to overdo things and therefore hold such views.
I encountered a more or less identical experience during my teen years. Having been naive and young at that time, I became a victim of ignorance, believing that anything to do with sex was Islam’s greatest enemy and that as good Muslims, we had to suppress as much as possible any elements that could possibly bring sex into imagination or discussion. In most of the cases, women were the easiest and most vulnerable targets and scapegoats.
After leaving high school, I joined a short pre-university course at a local institution. Since it was a transit for further studies in the Arab world, all other participants came from a so-called religious educational background or religious schools.
I was the only one from a mainstream public school and without any formal Arabic language qualification. The only reason that made me end up there was purely interest and a newly discovered passion in Islam.
At a first glance, things appeared innocent enough, with the students displaying the typical enthusiastic ‘Islamic’ appearance: girls in their long hijab (called ‘tudung’ in Bahasa) and guys mostly in their small, white hats (called ‘kopiah’), which are usually a sign of piety or religiosity in our culture.
I had long dreamed of having such Godly companions in life and so was very excited in the first few weeks. I must be in the right path, I told myself and my excessive eagerness to be ‘good’ made me observe them so closely in admiration, and cling to their every word.
All That Glitters Is Not Gold
A month or so passed by and I began to sense something wrong. Some of these ‘Islamic’ students, especially the guys, were overdoing things. At first, I thought I was the one with insufficient Islamic knowledge and so it was better to keep my mouth shut, but with each day, I found my natural instinct as a human rebelling against their seemingly ‘Islamic’ practices.
In the class, we were indirectly told that Muslim girls were not supposed to be too active or vocal; asking the lecturer too many questions was inappropriate because pious Muslim girls should be quiet. Voice was an ‘aurah’ and could provoke sexual thoughts and so, keeping quiet was the safest thing.
If a friend of mine stood in front to present something, some guys would boo her and mock her from behind. If one of us talked too loudly by mistake, they would send us a note, giving a short religious sermon of how a Muslim girl should behave.
Delving deep into the issue to quench my thirst for the truth, I discovered that all those absurd ideas were shared directly or indirectly by the very teachers teaching in the so-called religious schools or madrasahs.
Girls especially, were brainwashed first into believing that they were the source of all evils and sexual misconducts and therefore, they had to be under control, to salvage humankind.
Few friends shared with me their awkward experience at different Islamic schools where male students were so dominant and girls were constantly suppressed; the dress code was always very strict for girls. A slightest deviation from the standard code would render a female student’s reputation and honor at stake.
In one famous school, girls were expected to dress in certain colors: black, grey, white. In short, any dull color. Other colors or colorful dresses were considered sexually arousing and so forbidden. Trousers were a taboo, for the same reason. Red trousers were especially banned because they could be tempting to male students!
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