Sisters in Islam: Don't judge women for their clothing

PETALING JAYA: Sisters In Islam (SIS) has criticised the recent crackdown by the authorities in Kelantan on women wearing "tight", "sexy" or "indecent" attire, saying that it reflects medieval and backward attitudes.

Expressing its concern, SIS said the obsession with women's bodies and the need to control their dressing implied that women were defective mentally, physically, and spiritually as well as dangerous to the moral order of society.

To date, over 20 notices and summonses have been issued against women for their dressing in the "Ops Sopan" operation conducted by the Kelantan Islamic Affairs Department (JAHEAIK) and the Kota Baru Municipal Council (MPKB).

The operation, involving over 90 officers was carried out in hypermarkets, hotels and resort areas in Kelantan.

"Today, girls are outperforming boys in school and women make up the majority of undergraduates in public universities.

"Work-wise, women represent 54.6% of the labour force in Malaysia. Operations such as these completely undermines the accolades that women have worked so hard to earn and reduces their worth to just their clothing.

"Quranic discussions around how men and women should dress centres around the concept of modesty. This is understood first, as an avoidance of access, and secondly, as the covering of nakedness," SIS said in a statement, adding that Surah al-A'raf (7:26) speaks of clothing to cover nakedness and clothing as a thing of beauty.

The same verse also stated that the garment of piety (taqwa) is the best of all.

In applying the verse to everyday lives, SIS said it is important to understand that while covering the body is essential, no amount of material used or discarded can take priority over taqwa or consciousness pf God.

"We are also concerned that operations like this completely discounts the responsibility of men in addressing social ills, as no men were given any notices or summonses for not guarding their modesty such as lowering their gaze in public as prescribed in Surah an-Nur (24:30).

"All brochures circulated in print and online via social media have also been designed to unfairly target, vilify and warn women – and not men – of their modesty," it said.

SIS urged JAHAEIK and MPKB to make efforts to understand the realities of the community which they serve as a whole, as well as systemic roots of social ills.

It added that the solution did not lie in shrouding, segregation and control of women.

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