My interview with Dewi Rara enlightened me to an understanding of Islam, as a source of faith and a daily routine. Though we discussed a multitude of topics, from petrol prices to smoking and drug trade in Banjarmasin, what was most inspiring was the pride and vigour with which this woman regarded her religion.
My introduction to Islam begins rationally: with talk of their god, Allah. Everything relates back to him and to ensure there is no devil. Small tasks such as entering a room with the right foot, and exiting with the left, form the details of a larger image of ultimate dedication and submission. We discuss dress codes and the use of the hijab as a woman’s symbol of respect and decency. I ask if it matters that I wore a t-shirt with my arms showing, and she says “it doesn’t matter, we still respect other religions so you don’t have to cover up.” Dewi Rara continues, that women should cover themselves for their husbands’ privacy and that only he should know what is underneath, comically adding, “it’s like, SURPRISE!”
The struggle for equality, justice and freedom against patriarchal Islamic structures is undeniable. Dewirara explained that when girls menstruate they can’t pray because they are “unclean.” So how could a woman assert her independence and advocate feminism when even an involuntary physical occurrence is a facilitator of dishonour? Western feminism defines women as not being subject to tradition, culture or social coercion. [Afrianty 2017] The liberation of public protests and social media campaigns such as #freethenipple is worlds away from acts that are acceptable within the umbrella of Islam. However, Malaysian speaker Zainah Anwar CLAIMS that “Islam gives women the right to define what Islam is.” Concurrently, Ghayda confessed that she did not believe that “all problems can be solved within an Islamic framework because not all problems are strictly Islamic” , which promotes a re-evaluation of teachings and oppressive behaviours.
I chose, perhaps boldly, to discuss Islam as it was the most startling cultural difference I encountered whilst in Banjarmasin. With Muslims covering 88% of Indonesia’s population, it was hard for me to accustom to such a large volume of people sharing the same, seemingly restrictive devotion. Feminism is a fickle issue in consideration of existing practices and principles, but perhaps it is not about challenging one’s beliefs, but more so about empowering oneself with a dutiful and more notably, enjoyable approach.
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Afrianty, D. (2017). Indonesian Muslim women engage with feminism. [online] The Conversation. Available at: https://theconversation.com/indonesian-muslim-women-engage-with-feminism-78424 [Accessed 25 Jan. 2018].
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