MALAYSIAN Muslims are a strange bunch in the sense that they are very religious but only when it comes to all the rituals rather than the ideas and philosophy behind the faith. They will be obsessed with the do’s and don’ts but totally careless when it comes to the why.
For example, look for any religious book in the Bahasa Malaysia language and you will find many that talk about things like the right positioning during prayers, how many times water must pass through your toes during ablution and the amount of prayers to make sure it is answered.
But you would be pressed for luck to find books that talk about the ideas of Islam and the reasons why certain thoughts, opinions and interpretations came to be. Neither would you be able to find a lot of books that that talk about the philosophy of the faith and the relevance to life.
This was reminded to me recently when I watched a local Malaysian movie that has just been released in the cinemas called Hijabsta Ballet. It tells of a story of a rising young ballerina who who decides to wear the hijab and cover her head because she is Muslim.
What I expected when going into the film was to see a story about a young Muslim, Adele, who is torn and conflicted between her passion for ballet and her faith. It started out promising with her trying to prove to her contemporaries that religion is not a hindrance.
Adele came up with different case studies of actual women Muslim athletes who were competing at the top of their game and the challenges that they had to go through because of their hijab wearing habits. But of course, they were making breakthroughs.
But the movie starts to disappoint after that. Adele’s family does not support her and she screams at her mother, who does not wear a hijab, accusing her of not wanting to follow the the teachings of the Quran.
Then, she goes through a series of escapes where she just runs away from every single challenge that she faces. And to cut a long story short, at the end of the day, Adele gives up ballet but then settles to perform ballet for women only.
As the movie ends, texts scroll on the screen like a horrible version of the Star Wars introduction sequence. The gist of it says that the debate around women having to wear the hijab has been going on for a long time, so stop it and just wear the hijab so all problems will be solved!
I know that films are forms of individual expressions for the filmmakers. I make films too and I also put in my thoughts and opinions in my films. But it doesn’t mean I have to agree with the expression made by other filmmakers.
Hijabsta Ballet is a film that preaches and imposes its politics on the audience. The filmmakers take a holier than thou attitude and tell the audience that they should just stop having any discourse and discussions because Islam is the best religion in the world, so shut it.
The texts that scrolls at the end of the movie is in three different languages – Bahasa Malaysia, English and Mandarin. It is as if they are trying to proselytise everyone who watches the film. I am surprised that they didn’t have it in Tamil to address the Indian Malaysian community.
In my own personal conclusion, the movie Hijabsta Ballet is only more proof that Malaysian Muslims only seem to want to understand the religion of Islam. They discourage any intellectual discourse and want everyone to just follow the faith blindly.
This all goes against the teachings of the religion because Islam constantly asks its followers to search for knowledge to make sense of life.
Perhaps they are threatened by the thought Malaysian Muslims might start thinking for themselves.