Malaysia was the first country in over a decade I’d been to where Muslim was the primary religion. The last one, Morocco, was far more European than Malaysia and as such I don’t recall seeing very many headscarves being warn by the women. That would change in Malaysia as I made my way along the west coast before doubling back through the highlands down to Kuala Lumpur before returning to South Korea I quickly noticed a few things.
One is that it wasn’t uncommon to see women in traditional Muslim clothing. The full length dress with a headscarf – which is called a “hijab” by the Muslim world and a “tudung” in Malaysia. Tudung literally means cover.
I would classify Malaysia as a relaxed or moderate Muslim nation which afforded me the discovery of realizing just how important the hijab can be for a woman’s personal expression. The majority of Muslim women wear the full body covering, frequently in black or another dark colour; however, with their hijab they are able to express individuality.
The hibabs come in a variety of colours, and fabrics, and qualities.
Some are plain and simple, others are multicoloured cloth, or embroidered, or even bedazzled. Honestly, when I saw the first, sparkly hijab it took me by surprise. Then awareness dawned as I realized that for many of these women they don’t have a great deal of ways to express themselves by their clothing choices. Instead they’ve found a way to show a touch of individuality in a way that follows the tenets of their beliefs but also allows them to feel feminine and distinct.
Much of the world has opinions of the Muslim religion and beliefs. What I found from meeting them and talking to them confirmed what pretty much every trip and every place I’ve visited has reconfirmed. People are people. They have the similar dreams and wishes and wants. Goals and desires. Everywhere I have been I’ve met truly amazing people and been dismayed by fools and bigots. Everywhere.
The reason I keep traveling, is because I find much more beauty and joy and kindness than the negative. Yes, it’s there. It’s unfortunate that so many Western politicians want to focus on the dark and the ugly side of human nature, reflecting their own shallow, empty core in the process.
Me? I’d rather wander along a beach on Malaysia and meet two lovely young ladies who were happy to talk to me, and giggle with pleasure when I complimented them (on their “tudungs”) and politely asked them if I could take a picture of them and their headscarves because it was something newfound for me.
And they permitted me. Because, they were kind and sweet and flattered…
and were pleased to show off their personal style and individual expression.