Hello, I Do Not Have All the Answers

a.k.a. Do I Look Like a Walking Information Counter?

By Nur Diyana

When I decided that I wanted to wear the tudung, I imagined that my father would be furious. He was. To this day, I romanticise the premise of my decision to rebel against him. That, however, is not the standard textbook answer that people generally expect when they ask me why I choose to cover my head. Isn’t it a religious obligation? They’d ask. They also tend to open with a “did you come from a strict family?” or “were you forced to wear this?” Some are just not convinced and/or satisfied with a “this is my choice and preference” response. Not too sure whether it has anything to do with the uneasiness of knowing that women can and do have choices and preferences. ¯\_(ツ)_/¯.

I also assumed people would leave me alone. I had foolishly thought I would fade into the background and be invisible in my black ensemble (which I wear almost like a uniform). Boy, was I wrong. Apparently, the simple cloth that I drape religiously over my head before I leave the house comes attached with some sort of device which emits a “please, ask me questions about my beliefs, faith, practices, fashion choices and hygiene” signal. Why are you wearing the scarf? Why are you always in black – are you supposed to only wear dark colours? Why aren’t you wearing more prints? What do you do with the food scraps trapped under your nails from eating with your hand?

Being treated like a walking encyclopedia on Islam is also the occupational hazard of dressing the way I choose to. I may be more visibly Muslim but I am not necessarily trained in Islamic theology or jurisprudence. I cannot help you with questions pertaining to that. (By the way, being more visibly Muslim does not make me better or more pious). At times, I am expected to know anything and everything about Malays and Muslims and am somehow transformed into a representative and spokesperson for the (non-monolithic and very heterogeneous) community against my will. Why do some Muslim women not wear the scarf? Why do Malays/Muslims marry young?Why do they have many children?Well, why don’t you ask them instead? I am not in their shoes. I have no idea what their experiences are like. I cannot speak for them.

I hate to have to break this to you but I need you to know that I do not have all the answers. What I do have and can offer are my thoughts and opinions as an individual whose perspective is shaped by her multiple social identities – Malay, Muslim, Singaporean, woman and many others. And these thoughts and opinions may not be what you want to hear.

Read the other posts here: Questions blog series