Misdirection of Dress Codes

(If you ask me, this is a better video to watch for the first time visitors to Malaysia and Asha Gill is lovely as usual)

I was flying in to Malaysia just the other day and yes, I was flying on MAS. It was kind of painful to see the good, hardworking people in MAS facing some uncertainty as MAS undergoes a major restructuring. But that did not stopped the stewardess on my flight from ensuring that service was and always first class.

As we were starting to descend, the onboard entertainment system was switched off and a short video on KLIA and Malaysia were shown for the benefit of the first time visitors to the country. It was not the usual video (starring Asha Gill which is many times better) but a different one. It often happens, just as I watch a video of the good things of the country – the good places to visit, the people from different background of culture, race and religion and of course, the food – I would have tears on my eyes. This time, it was no exception either. I simply love my “tanahair” no matter how long I am out of the country.

As I watched the video, something was not right. The scene is duty free shops in KLIA and the narrator mentions “items found in no other part of the world”. The next scene once this statement completes is a picture of Star Buck. Items found in no other part of the world, eh? It must have crossed the family from Australia who was sitting in front of me. They were smiling when they saw this.

Anyway, the landing was perfect and throughout the immigration & customs, it was breeze too. When I got home, the family had gone out so I took a quick shower and after an easy meal, I went to sleep only to be rudely awaken a couple of hours later by my daughter. Yup, I was back home already.

Interesting, “home” is undergoing some form of transformation as well. And I am not talking about the latest scandal to hit Najib administration – the one that was committed outside the country and one that got the Australian police in action. Nothing at moved on the biggest scandal of the century in this country, so this news was a welcome change indeed (already the IGP was quick to clear those involved from any form of CBT).

No, I am talking about the silly, petty hoo-haa on the recent misdirection of enforcing the dress codes

And it probably started with this:-

A double gold medal winning gymnast has been accused of breaking strict Islamic dress code by performing in a ‘revealing’ leotard at a top international event.

Malaysian double gold medallist Farah Ann Abdul Hadi has been slammed by some in the majority Muslim nation for her outfit.

Thousands have taken to social media to express their support for Ms Abdul Hadi after the controversy emerged while she competed at the Southeast Asian (SEA) Games.

(Source)

Things somehow quiet down after the Sultan of Selangor himself slammed the critics of her attire and praised Farah for her win:-

Selangor Sultan Sharafuddin Idris Shah fully backs national artistic gymnast Farah Ann Abdul Hadi and has expressed disapproval at those who picked on her attire during the 28th SEA Games in Singapore.

In his congratulatory letter to Farah, Sultan Sharafuddin said her achievement had made the whole country, including Selangor, proud.

The Sultan, as quoted by local daily The Star said in his letter, “Criticising your attire should be the last matter in the minds of those who commented negatively on social media.

He added, “They should be celebrating your achievements for Malaysia and Selangor.”

In his letter, the Selangor ruler said that he hoped Farah would not take the comments of narrow-minded people to heart and continue to strive to be the best in her field.

(Source)

Then more of dress code mishaps started to trickle in , starting with the famed Sarong-gate at JPJ office:-

A woman had a shock at a Road Transport Department (JPJ) office when she was forced to wear a sarong or be refused service.

(Source)

Interestingly soon after the incident went viral on the net, they were quick to admit that there was no such rule and they went too far with this and issued an apology. At least they admitted it was the wrong thing to do.

Then we had the visitor barred from seeing her father who was admitted in the hospital at a local hospital and in the end, she was forced to wear a towel to see him:-

In a third incident at public institutions here, a woman has come forward alleging that she was forbidden from entering the Sungai Buloh Hospital here recently because she was dressed in shorts.

In her Facebook post accessible to the public that is being shared on social media, the woman who goes by the moniker Nisha Daddygal said she was then forced to borrow a towel to cover up her legs before she was allowed to visit her father who had been warded there.

(Source)

Just imagine if this was an emergency and in the wee hours of the morning. And once again, there was a public apology and the hospital administrators informed that it was just a misunderstanding on the guidelines and a newly joined security guard to be blamed.

Then we had the ultimate dress code incident – of all places, at an international airport:-

Blogger Wilson Ng wrote about his experience at KLIA’s Baggage Services Lost and Found area, where he was forced to don long black pants and shoes because the knee-length pink shorts and sandals he was wearing was deemed inappropriate.

Ng who had gone to pick up his luggage which he had accidentally left at the baggage carousel following a trip to Taipei was denied entry by a security officer at the enquiry counter who told him to go home and change because there is a dress code to enter the KLIA building and the lost and found baggage office.

(Source)

Public apology was then duly rendered and MAHB stated that it has investigated the matter and found it to be due to miscommunication on the implementation of a policy pertaining to the issuance of visitor passes at the airport.

Wrong dress code incidents since I was back is unlikely to be small mistake, oversight or “opps, they misunderstood the instructions”. We never had these problems in the past – so why now and why so frequent in recent weeks?

Then one guy opened his mouth:-

Non-Muslims should dress more “appropriately” in public places out of “respect” for Muslims who will sin upon seeing people, including non-Muslims, who do not cover their “aurat”, Perak Mufti Tan Sri Harussani Zakaria said amid the controversy surrounding conservative dress codes enforced at government departments.

“Even when we wear properly but we see other people who show their ‘aurat’, it is haram,” Harussani told Malay Mail Online yesterday.

“They should show respect for Muslims and dress more appropriately; they cannot be showing their thighs. It is not wrong for them to dress how they like, but they must be considerate because when we bump into them at public places and see this, it is considered haram for us (Muslims),” the conservative cleric added.

(Source)

Perhaps that explains why Marina Mahathir is having a tough time shopping for a good Baju Melayu for the upcoming hari raya – she calls it the Arab Colonialism. But then again, I too stopped wearing jippa some years ago already – it is more on the change of fashion, environment and preference, I guess.

But then, it seems like things were getting out of hand and it was not big surprise when ex-civil servants and lawyers commented back as follows:-

Former high-ranking civil servants and lawyers have blamed the recent spate of strict enforcement of dress codes at government buildings on the intolerant attitude of certain “holier-than-thou” Muslims imposing their Islamic values on Malaysians of other faiths.

It was also a case of little Napoleons trying to be “more pious than the Pope”, they said. They added that it was time Putrajaya put a stop to this moral policing, saying the leadership must take a firm stand against those who abused the rights of the people seeking services at government departments. They also said Cuepacs, the umbrella group of civil service unions, had no business endorsing such actions.

(Source)

Even the Old Man noticed the stupidity in enforcing the silly dress code and commented:-

Malaysia is now sliding backwards and is acting like Saudi Arabia in its zeal to impose a dress code on the public, Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamed said today.

He said it was a person’s right to wear shorts in public, and, “as long as they aren’t naked”, they should be allowed to enter a government building or hospital. “In government offices, certainly there is a dress code. But that is an office matter.

“Public matters are different. We shouldn’t be telling others what to do, they aren’t Muslim,” he told a press conference after a buka puasa event with Perkasa in Kampung Baru, Kuala Lumpur.

He said dress codes in government buildings should only apply to its staff, and not visitors, especially those who are not Muslim.‎ “We are now sliding backwards. Soon, not only shorts will be an issue. If a woman leaves a house without a burqa, it will be considered wrong.

(Source)

If you ask me, as far as I could remember, Malaysians have generally dressed well and they know their limits when they are in the public areas (although there are some exception to this but they are in the smallish minority).

And one wearing shorts or skirts that is knee level is nothing compared to some Mat Salleh backpackers who come to this country wearing nothing but T-shirts that looks like rags from our mamak stalls and very short, shorts. Some even looks unwashed for weeks. And yet we welcome them with open arms and a very big smile. It is not like they have committed high treason wearing short pants. It is just how they dress themselves as they backpack to this part of the world and there is nothing wrong with it.

angkorwat dress code

(No doubt there must be some sense of protocols and dress code in place when one visits Government departments for official business, temples and even one’s home even in other countries. One cannot be wearing their sleeping dress or be half naked when they are there on official businesses or when they are on holy grounds. Image source: http://www.happinessplunge.com)

In the 1980s when me and group of friends from my neighborhood decided to attend the Open House at Istana Negara, our parents made sure that we are dressed well and wore proper shoes (we wore our finest on that day). And I also remember whilst we were waiting in the long queue to see the King, a policeman stopped a man in front and informed that he could not meet the King as he was wearing a sandal seemed extreme but even back then, we understood that there was minimal adherence to protocols.

And couple years ago when we are at resort’s swimming pool, the life guard on duty barred couple of guests from entering the swimming pool because they did not have their swimming attires on (they only had t-shirts and short pants). There is places when one cannot simply walk in wearing just any clothes.

But whilst one can understand the minimal need for protocols, it does not make any sense to impose the same for a visitor who is visiting a patient or a passenger looking for a lost luggage. And even if one goes by the arguments of the Perak Mufti that the non-Muslims must show respect to the Muslims by dressing properly, one must remember that:-

1. Respect is a mutual thing – it cannot be forced upon by rules and regulations. And respect should not be limited to just wearing the right clothes. There are many other aspect of respect that can be done without the need to force another to wear a different clothes

2. Wearing shorts or skirts that shows the knee is nothing new in this multi racial country. Even our police used to be in khaki shorts many years ago (still remember?). And I even saw a number of Muslims wearing short pants when they were at a local hypermarket after they had opened fast couple days ago. Even at night, it was terribly warm. Why now it had become a big issue? Why a show of knees can shake up one’s faith on God? If someone gets all too excited by seeing the knees, then something is not right with that person.

3. And we are not expected to “cover up” from head to toe in this hot, humid environment. There must be a reason why people in the Middle East historically cover themselves up in the first place (and it had nothing to do with religion) but please don’t expect us to be idiots and cover up under the Malaysian weather and end up with foul stinky sweat and smell at the end of the day.

4. And more importantly, there are more pressing issues facing the individuals, society and the country than what one wears to a Government office. Someone who just wears sandals, shorts and t-shirts but hard-working, earns his money from legal means and is good to his family, friends and neighbors is thousand time better than someone who may wear that seems to be conforming to one’s faith but living off from dubious means of income, spread lies, hatred and confusion.

Petrol price just went up and recent survey shows that all not well with the implementation of GST and the Government is stuck with scandals – one after another and the implications on the country’s economy is dreadful especially after what we saw happened with Greece. Are we becoming the next Greece in this part of the world – the question may not be if but when? And yet, some people hardly moved by the fact that MARA overpaid RM66 million more for some property in Australia and sees no wrong done on this. No one had even offered to tender their resignation on this.

And if these silly trends are left unchecked, don’t be surprised if one day, these same people who is very very much afraid of short pants and low skirts places a menacing guard at the entrance to check the color of your underwear and if it is not to their color of liking (or brand), you are forced to go back and change them before you are allowed in to do your official business.

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