Friday, January 2, 2009

Muslim dress

Nine Muslims, including three children, have been ordered off a domestic US flight after two other passengers heard them making what they thought were suspicious remarks about security.

The group, eight of whom are US citizens, was in Washington on Thursday afternoon on an AirTran flight bound for Orlando, Florida where they were to attend a religious retreat, and were eventually cleared for travel by the FBI, according to the Washington Post.

The airline and FBI characterised the incident as a misunderstanding, but AirTran reportedly refused to rebook the passengers, who paid for seats on another carrier.

Kashif Irfan, 34, said his younger brother Atif and his brother's wife "were remarking about safety" when they were overheard.

"My brother and his wife were discussing some aspect of airport security," he told the Post. "The only thing my brother said was, 'Wow, the jets are right next to my window."

Irfan, who was also travelling with his wife, a sister-in-law, a friend and Irfan's three sons ages seven, four, and two, said action was taken against his party because of the way they looked.

All were traditionally Muslim in appearance, with the men sporting beards and the women in headscarves.

An airline spokesman, Tad Hutcheson, defended AirTran's handling of the situation.

"At the end of the day, people got on and made comments they shouldn't have made on the airplane," he was quoted as saying.

"Other people heard them, misconstrued them. It just so happened these people were of Muslim faith and appearance," Hutcheson added. "It escalated, it got out of hand and everyone took precautions."

The pilot postponed the flight, and federal officials ordered all 104 passengers off the plane to re-screen them and their luggage before allowing the flight to go to Orlando, two hours late and without the nine passengers.

Ellen Howe, a spokeswoman for the Transportation Security Administration, said the pilot acted appropriately.

"It was an ordeal," said Abdur Razack Aziz, one of the detained.

"Nothing came out of it. It was paranoid people. It was very sad."

I had just finished reading, “The Bookseller of Kabul” by Asne Seierstad and “A Thousand Splendid Suns” by Khaled Hosseini. Both authors talked about the BURQA or the BURKA. These are the Muslim dresses that the Middle East women have to wear. They are usually black or dark blue and cover the women from head to toe with a small slit for the eyes. Even the slit is made of a mesh type of material.

In Sarawak, and in Malaysia, the Muslims are more moderate. In the ladies wear a TUDONG, which is a long fabric. This covers the head and to the shoulders. The face is is shown like an egg shape. They also wear a long sleeved gown which goes all the way to the ground.

It was not always like this, when I was growing up, the Malay ladies wore three types of clothing, the well known Kebaya which you probably are familiar with as the air stewardess of Garuda, Malaysian airlines and Singapore airlines, the Nyonya lacy top, and the Baju Kurong. If they wore a head gear, it was a lacy pashmina loosely draped over their hair.

In 1975, when I went to Canada, I became the secretary of MISSA, Malaysian, Indonesian, Singapore Students association. I had on various occasions had to dance with my fellow students on stage a dance representing this region. We chose the candle dance and were paired off with guys. This dance would probably be condemned by the Muslim extremists as anti Islam as it was in close proximity or KHWALT with the opposite sex. Any way, I had my sister Elizabeth make me a Nyonya top and sent it over. I wore it over a colourful sarong. We shook our booties and wowed our audience.

A decade later, I came back to Sarawak, and found that the Muslim girls had to TUDONG, and most of the women too. I asked my dad, and he said it was the influenced of the Iranian Ayatollah Khomeini which started the trend.

During the sixteen years I was in Singapore, I think it was after 9/11, some parents challenged the Ministry of Education. They defied the regulations and sent their six year old girls in TUDONG. The Singapore Government wouldn’t bulge and it became a media circus. Eventually, one ring leader took his daughter to a Muslim school in Australia. The rest withdrew and enrolled their daughters in local Madrasas or Muslim schools.

Here in Auckland, because I teach ESOL, I have contact with a lot of Muslim students. One twelve year old Kenyan student came in a TUDONG. Her mum accompanied her to school daily and she wore a BURQA. As she was older, we spend a lot of time discussing the problems of being a Muslim in a Western society.

***These pix are my Sarawak dress, the bottom is an ordinary sarong. I wear them to special functions, depicting dress of the country of my birth.***

After reading this news article, what do you think? Should be BURQA be allowed on the plane?

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