ISLAM IN MALAYSIA

ISLAM IN MALAYSIA

Almost all Muslim Malaysians are Sunni Muslims. Malays are by definition Muslims and are not allowed to convert. They are regarded as moderate Muslims. Malaysia along with Indonesia, and Turkey are regarded as the most liberal and open Muslim countries. In some towns and cities you can find Sufi brotherhoods.

Unlike some Muslim countries, Islam and modernity seem compatible and exist side and side. Malaysia “combines traditional principals of justice with more modern secular forms of government and society.” It has was the personal mission of Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad to bring Malaysia into the modern world while keeping its religious values.

Malaysia is a major Muslim country where Islam is not an indigenous religion but was imposed by what some have called “Arab spiritual imperialists.” But that is not to say that Muslim Malaysians are not devote. There is always a waiting list of Malays trying to attend the pilgrimage to Mecca.

The Constitution guarantees freedom of religion, but when it comes to Islam, the country’s official religion, only the Sunni sect is permitted. Other forms, including Shiite Islam, are considered deviant and are not allowed to be spread. There are no official figures on the number of Shiites in Malaysia, but Shiite leaders estimate that there could be as many as 40,000, many of whom practice their faith secretly. [Source: New York Times]

The level of Islamic zeal varies somewhat from place to place. Muslims living in urban areas tend to be more liberal and Westernized than those living in the countryside. In some provinces, such as Kelantan and Terengganu, there is strong fundamentalist undercurrent. Here, women are urged to wear a special garment on their wrists that cover hands (some Muslims believe the hands as well as head should be covered) and some clerics have called for the stoning of adulterers.The majority of Muslim women wear ankle-length caftans and teregas, hair covering that are pinned under their chins, that expose only their faces and that give the women a gentle Pharaoh-like appearance.

Islam Comes to Malaysia

Islam was introduced to Malaysia by Arab, Persian and Indian traders who controlled trade on the Strait of Malacca. For the most part the process was peaceful; The people who brought Islam were traders first and missionaries second. Most were Sunnis. Shiites came later. Hinduism and Buddhism were already well rooted in Southeast Asia at the time.

Islam came to the Malay Archipelago via Arab and Indian traders in the 13th century, ending the age of Hinduism and Buddhism. It arrived in the region gradually, and became the religion of the elite before it spread to the commoners. The Islam in Malaysia was influenced by previous religions and was originally not orthodox.

Prof. Dr. Nazeer Ahmed, PhD wrote in the Encyclopedia of Islamic History: Around the year 1390, a prince from Java, Parameswara, was forced to flee his homeland. Landing on the west coast of Malaya with a loyal following of about a thousand young men, the prince lived off piracy for almost ten years. At that time, Siam (modern Thailand) was the imperial power in the area. Parameswara drove out the Siamese and established the town of Malacca in 1403. The name Malacca derives from the Arabic word Malakut-meaning market place. The Arabs had maintained a trading colony there since the 8th century.

“Once settled, the prince encouraged peaceful trade. The fame and fortune of the trading post grew until it attracted international attention. The Muslims dominated the trade in the Indian Ocean. Arabic had become the lingua franca of traders in this region. Islam was gaining a following in the islands of Indonesia. Across the Straits from Malacca, the powerful Muslim kingdom of Acheh was emerging. Local folklore has it that around the year 1405, Prince Parameswara fell in love with a princess from the court of Pasai, accepted Islam, married her and changed his name to Sultan Iskander Shah.

Thus it was love that brought Islam to Malaya. The bride brought with her good fortune for Malacca. The following year, the Emperor of China, Chu Tin (1403-24) sent a delegation under admiral Yin Ching, offering trade and friendship. The offer was gladly accepted as the Sultan was under increasing military pressure from the Siamese to the north. More courtly transactions followed. In 1409, the great Chinese admiral Zheng Yi (commonly known as Admiral Ho) visited Malacca at the head of a large flotilla of great ships. Admiral Zheng Yi was the greatest seaman of the 15th century. He was a Muslim. The Emperor of China, realizing the importance of Islam in the Indian Ocean region, had appointed him as Admiral of the great voyage. Zheng Yi continued with his flotilla to Acheh, Sri Lanka, Calicut, Bijapur, Hormuz, Aden, Jeddah, Zanj (East Africa), Zanzibar, Shofala and then southwards, crossing what is today the Cape of Good Hope to the west coast of Africa. Admiral Zheng Yi brought an invitation for Sultan Iskander Shah to visit Peking.

In 1411 Sultan Iskander Shah visited China, was warmly received and was given presents of silk, gems, horses, gold and silver. Malacca also received a “most favored nation status” from China and entered into mutual defense agreements to ward off further Thai encroachments into the Malay Peninsula. Upon his return, Sultan Iskander Shah ruled as a benevolent monarch. He invited Muslim scholars from as far away as Mecca, honored them and encouraged the spread of Islam. Malacca became not only the hub of international trade but also a center for Islamic learning and a rich prize that was to be fought over in succeeding centuries by emerging European Empires. Sultan Iskander Shah died in 1424. His grave is not to be found because the Portuguese, when they captured Malacca in 1510, they dug up the graves of all of the Sultans of Malaya and destroyed the tombstones. But the legacy of Sultan Iskander Shah lives. He was a prince who brought Islam to Malaya for the love of a beautiful princess.”

History of Islam in Southeast Asia

According to The Economist: “It is not clear when Islam came to South-East Asia, and whether Arabs, Persians or Indians were its main disseminators. But there is no doubt that it was spread for the most part by merchants, rather than the warriors who brought it to the Middle East and North Africa. Local people seem to have converted gradually, while preserving many of their pre-Islamic beliefs. For a long time, Muslims remained a minority, and had to learn to rub along with people of other faiths. Hindu kingdoms endured in Java until the 16th century, for example, while Spanish colonisers and Muslim preachers seem to have arrived in the Philippines only a few decades apart. [Source: The Economist , May 29, 2003 \*/]

“What is more, the merchant missionaries themselves seem to have followed a fairly unorthodox brand of Islam. They introduced Sufism, a form of mysticism frowned upon by dogmatic Muslims. And although almost all South-East Asian Muslims follow the Sunni sect, Shia holidays have entered the local tradition. To this day, even the Acehnese, popularly considered the region's most devout Muslims, celebrate Ashura, an exclusively Shia festival in the rest of the Islamic world. \*/

Malaysian Shiites

There are no official figures on the number of Shiites in Malaysia, but Shiite leaders estimate that there could be as many as 40,000, many of whom practice their faith secretly. According to to AFP, “Like other Muslims they read the Koran and face Mecca to pray, but the Shiite community in Malaysia is considered a "deviant sect" and faces harassment in this multicultural country.

Liz Gooch wrote in the New York Times, “Like most Muslims in Malaysia, Mohammad Shah was raised according to the Sunni school of Islam. But when he was about 30, he said, he came to believe that Sunni teachings did not answer all of his questions about Islam. He began reading about the Shiite school of thought, the world’s second largest Islamic sect, and decided that “Sunni was not right for me.” “I consider myself the new generation of Malaysian Shia,” said Mr. Mohammad, 33, using another term to describe Shiites. “My father is Sunni, my mother is Sunni. They are aware that I’m practicing a different school of thought. It’s no problem at all.” [Source: Liz Gooch, New York Times, January 27, 2011 ***]

Islam Hadhari

Former prime minister of Malaysia and religious scholar , Datuk Seri Abdullah Ahmad Badawi, promoted his vision of Islam—Islam Hadhari—as a model for development in Malaysia. Mohamed Sharif Bashir of the Islamic University of Malaysia wrote: “According to Badawi, Islam Hadhari, or civilizational and comprehensive Islam, is not an inclusive concept as it also emphasizes the importance of progress—with an Islamic perspective—in the economic, social, and political fields. Islam Hadhari emphasizes the need for balanced development, which covers both physical and spiritual development. Hence, Badawi proposes a holistic development approach for Malaysia. This means a shift in development approach from a “secular paradigm” to a “tawheed paradigm,” which emphasizes developing a thinking society, social harmony, and economic progress. [Source: Mohamed Sharif Bashir, PhD, Islamic University of Malaysia (KUIM), Kuala Lumpur, March, 03, 2005; islamonline.net <^>]

“Badawi mentioned that Islam Hadhari is not a new religion. It is not a new teaching, nor is it a new madhhab (school of jurisprudence). Islam Hadhari is an effort to bring the Ummah back to basics, back to the fundamentals, as prescribed in the Qur’an and the Hadith, that form the foundation of Islamic civilization. If Islam Hadhari is interpreted sincerely and understood clearly, it will not cause Muslims to deviate from the true path.<^>

“Badawi explains that Islam Hadhari is merely an approach to foster an Islamic civilization built upon the noble values and ideals of Islam. It places substance over form. It is practical and pragmatic. It emphasizes development that is consistent with the tenets of Islam and that focuses on enhancing the quality of life for every citizen, regardless of his or her religion. This approach is also inspired by the Malaysian Muslims’ firm belief that the tide of radicalism and extremism can be checked and reversed with good governance, healthy democratic practices, and employment of the citizenry through education, as well as equitable sharing of the benefits of economic growth.

“Islam Hadhari, as introduced by Badawi, aims to achieve ten main principles, which Muslim nations and communities must demonstrate, namely: 1) Faith and piety in Allah; 2) A just and trustworthy government; 3) A free and independent people; 4) Mastery of knowledge; 5) Balanced and comprehensive economic development; 6) A good quality of life; 7) Protection of the rights of minority groups and women; 8) Cultural and moral integrity; 9) Protection of the environment; 10) Strong defenses. <^>

“These principles have been formulated to ensure that the implementation and approach does not cause anxiety among any group in this multiracial and multi-religious country. These principles have been devised to empower Muslims to face the global challenges of today. Islam Hadhari is complete and comprehensive, with an emphasis on the development of an economy and civilization capable of building the Muslim Ummah’s competitiveness. For a society to prosper, the glorious heritage of Islamic civilization in all its aspects must be used as a reference, and should be the source of inspiration.Badawi encourages and guides the Muslim community to work hard towards not only regaining the glory of Islamic civilization but also move forward and share the emerging economic prosperity and face the challenges of the 21st century. With this, he believes that the goal of developing a Malaysian society of excellence, glory, and distinction can be achieved. <^>

Datuk Prof. Dr. Abdullah Md. Zin, minister of religious affairs, says, “Wasatiyah, or a balanced life, would be a more precise way to describe Islam Hadhari. Moderation, on the other hand, could imply caution to the point of neglecting traditions. Islamic scholars tend to shy away from using the word ‘moderate’ because it can be manipulated and exploited by external influences. In the same way, scholars are cautious about the word ‘modern,’ which they associate with Western civilization. The word ‘progressive’ could also be used to define Islam Hadhari but wasatiyah is preferable.”

“The main objectives that Islam Hadhari is trying to achieve in Malaysia can be summed up in the following eight points: 1) Restoring moderation and embracing the mainstream, which will help strengthen both the people and the state. 2) Valuing good character, which should be central to the society in order to help it become a role model for both the Ummah and humanity as a whole. 3) Adopting seriousness and accountability in dealing with society’s main undertakings. 4) Building all social relations upon trust and good morals. 5) Respecting law and order. 6) Cherishing unity, cooperation, and solidarity. 7) Implementing genuine Islamic teachings and realizing the objectives of the Shari`ah 8. Empowering the state to be in a leading position, not feeble and weak-willed. <^>

“The main characteristics of Islam Hadhari are as follows: 1) Universality: It is based on Islam, a universal message for mankind that is based on mercy. 2) Godliness: It is based on divine scripture and works on bringing people closer to their Lord. Hence, it is a godly end and means, and has a divine source and reference. Morality: Its ultimate concern is maintaining a good character and good human relations. Tolerance: Tolerance is essential to create a society based on peace, stability, unity, cooperation, and solidarity among all it segments and with all its different traditions and beliefs. This kind of tolerance is based on trying to genuinely understand the Other and respect cultural and religious convictions.

These are the characteristic features of Islam Hadhari that distinguish it from all the other relevant perspectives: 1) Comprehensiveness: It integrates both scripture-based sciences and modern sciences. Another feature is its all encompassing program to deal with the individual, society, and the state. 2) Moderation: This is the main methodology for the perspective, which is based on gradualism and easiness in implementation. Through this implementation, there will be a balance between the interests of all—the individual and the society, spiritual and worldly needs, and ideals and reality. 3) Diversity: The context of Islam Hadhari is wide ranging; it covers a wide range of interests on different levels; it is open to new adjustments and to other human experiments and experiences. 4) Humanity: As a call, Islam Hadhari is focused upon people.

Difference Between Islam Hadhari and Political Islam

Prof. Zin states that Islam Hadhari works from the bottom up, from the villages, and in a systematic way. Political Islam, which is practiced by some Islamic parties, works the opposite way, from up to down. Often it leads nowhere. This was how Ayatollah Khomeini ruled, and where did it take his country? [Source: Mohamed Sharif Bashir, PhD, Islamic University of Malaysia (KUIM), Kuala Lumpur, March, 03, 2005; islamonline.net <^>]

According to the writings of the Malaysian scholars, Islam Hadhari will focus on improving the quality of life, focusing on four areas as follows: 1) Knowledge: Islam demands a fully literate tradition. More knowledge automatically forces moral responsibility upon a man. “Fear of God is the beginning of wisdom.” 2) Balanced development: Avoiding extravagance in any area—including religion. 3) Wealth (pillar of livelihood): Encouraging earning an honest living to accumulate wealth. 4) Health care: Disability and sickness are not qadar (destiny) and striving to overcome these is on God’s shown path. Avoid decadence—drugs and other activities that destroy health. <^>

In the early period of Islam, Muslims followed closely the examples of the Prophet in leadership and in the acquisition of wealth and knowledge, while still performing the compulsory `ibadah (acts of worship). It is clear that the Islam Hadhari concept contributes towards overall human progress that is balanced between spiritual and material, between progress and moral values, between religion and worldly concerns.

It is important for the Muslim Ummah to be guided in understanding and practicing Islam as a comprehensive way of life, as a means to build a civilization. A wholesome way of life will create the balance between a person’s responsibilities in this world and in the Hereafter. Islam is not merely a ritual, because ritualism is meant solely for the Hereafter. The government of Malaysia has never practiced secularism, which rejects the Hereafter and focuses solely on worldly matters. Islam must be lived as a system that integrates the worldly life with preparations for the Day of Judgment. <^>

Mosques in Malaysia

Malaysia has many mosques. Many have with Moorish-styled domes and minarets. Mostly funded by the government, the mosques cater almost entirely to the Malays and provide Friday sermons in the Malay language.

Today, many Malay or Islamic buildings incorporate Moorish design elements as can be seen in the Islamic Arts Museum and a number of buildings in Putrajaya - the new administrative capital, and many mosques throughout the country. Moorish architecture hails from North Africa and Spain. Characteristic elements include muqarnas, horseshoe arches, voussoirs, domes, crenellated arches, lancet arches, ogee arches, courtyards, and decorative tile work.

In February 2007, a controversy broke out over a request Chinese Malaysians who have embraced Islam to build their own mosque. Reuters reported: The Malaysian government has spurned applications by Chinese Muslims to open their first mosques, officials said. The authorities argued that having separate mosques would segregate Muslims and could anger the majority Malays, who by definition are Muslims. Mohamad Ridhuan Tee Abdullah, a convert championing Chinese Muslims, said Malaysia must show that Islam transcends race and culture. “We have to change the perception that Islam only belongs to a particular race, for example the Malays and the Arabs,” the 42-year-old Islamic scholar told Reuters. “We have to show the universality of Islam by allowing Chinese mosques,” he said at the weekend. “The authorities have to do away with the stereotypes.” [Source: Reuters, February 20, 2007 *+*]

“The issue goes to the heart of what Islam means in Malaysia, and shows how race continues to shape life in Malaysia 50 years after independence, analysts said. “There is fear that the Malay identity will be lost if Islam is practiced in languages other than Malay,” Canadian Muslim, Moaz Yusuf Ahmad, wrote in the New Straits Times recently. *+*

“There is not a single mosque for Chinese Muslims, although Indian Muslims are allowed to have their own mosques. Ridhuan, a vice-president of the Malaysian Chinese Muslim Association, said his association was proposing to build mosques that would reflect Chinese design. “We would like to portray mosques that are based on Chinese architectures,” he said. “It’s to show that we are still Chinese but the mosques will be opened to all Muslims.” *+*

Muezzin of Kuala Lumpur

Thomas Fuller wrote in the International Herald Tribune, “In a few minutes, Jefri bin Bujang's melodious and powerful voice will be propelled into the still sleepy neighborhood around Malaysia's national mosque, the Masjid Negara. But first things first. As he enters the mosque, Jefri removes his punch card from its slot and slides it into the employee time clock. 5:20 a.m. This is the modern face of Kuala Lumpur, where even the muezzin logs his hours - and gets paid overtime for the early morning shift. Less than 20 minutes later, Jefri's voice echoes across old Kuala Lumpur and the landmarks of the city's multiethnic heritage. "Allahu Akbar!" Allah is the Greatest! [Source: Thomas Fuller, International Herald Tribune, December 3, 2006 /*/]

“His voice is amplified and projected from the mosque's towering minaret. It booms down the road toward St. Mary's church, the former cricket grounds and the Moorish-style courthouse, all designed and built a century ago, during British colonial rule. The call to prayer carries into the patches of jungle that surround Kuala Lumpur, into the city's orchid gardens, butterfly sanctuary and perhaps as far as the serene Lake Gardens, the legacy of Alfred Venning, a colonial official who set aside the large park and thus ensured that Kuala Lumpur would be one of Asia's greenest cities. /*/

The term muezzin evokes images of the faithful being summoned from a balcony overlooking the dusty streets of Middle East capitals or the deserts of Arabia. But Jefri performs his azan from a decidedly less picturesque setting: a small, carpeted, windowless room on the ground floor of the mosque, with a microphone perched on a stand in the corner. Before reciting the call, Jefri completes his ablutions: washing his hands, cleaning his mouth and nostrils, washing his face from forehead to chin and from one ear to another, washing his forearms, wiping his head from front to back, wiping the inner sides of his ears and washing his feet. He then stands with unbroken concentration in front of his microphone, puts his feet about a foot apart, tilts his head back and his chin up. He plugs his ears with his fingers. ..."Allahu Akbar!" ("Come to Prayer! Come to Success!"(

The call to prayer, which is always in Arabic, can be sung with a number of different melodies, and Jefri says he does not decide which to use until he begins singing. "Some people think about what words come next," Jefri said afterward in his office across the hall. "I tend to think about the melody." Understanding Arabic is a challenge for many Muslims in Malaysia, where Malay, English, several Chinese dialects, and Tamil are most commonly spoken. "I don't understand Arabic fully," Jefri said. He can read the language phonetically because he studied it in high school, but he is working to expand his Arabic vocabulary.

Just before 1 p.m., Jefri prepares for the biggest event of the week: Friday prayers. He does his ablutions, snaps on a long black robe called a juba and dons a red cap wrapped with white cloth. He enters the prayer hall, where hundreds of worshipers have gathered. With his juba gently flapping in the breeze of a fan, Jefri begins the 15 lines of the call to prayer. His voice fills the cavernous space. The imam, Zulkifli bin Salleh, ascends to the wooden pulpit and issues his sermon in Malay. Islam reveres those who work hard, Zulkifli says. This will not only bring prosperity to the family, but also to the community and the country's economy. His words are in line with the current government's attempt to pair Islam and economic development.

Thousands of worshipers, overflowing into the far corners of the mosque, pray together. They kneel and touch their heads to the ground in nearly perfect synchronism. When they disperse, Jefri helps roll up and cart away the prayer mats. He returns to his desk, where he spends a few more hours clipping newspapers and greeting visitors. At 5:49 p.m. he punches out, mounts his motor- scooter and rides home.

Career of the Muezzin of Kuala Lumpur

Thomas Fuller wrote in the International Herald Tribune, “As one of three muezzins at the national mosque, summoning the faithful for their five daily prayers, Jefri says his work reflects his devotion to God and to Malaysia's Muslims. "Even though the pay is poor," he said, "I feel I am more blessed." A muezzin for the last eight years, he has had a career both sacred and profane. He previously worked as a bank clerk, stock boy, gas station attendant, and, perhaps most improbably, assistant supervisor of a cosmetics counter at a department store. ("I was the only man in the department," he said. "It was a lot of fun.") [Source: Thomas Fuller, International Herald Tribune, December 3, 2006 /*/]

“After living what he describes as a naughty youth of girls and motorcycles, Jefri chose to switch paths. His mother, who had enrolled him in a religious school when he was young, urged him to take the job at the mosque despite a salary half the level of what he made in retail. He receives 1,200 ringgit a month, or $325, including overtime. But he also is comforted by the perks of the job: Islam is Malaysia's official religion and all imams, muezzins and other Muslim officials are civil servants, receiving government salaries and pensions./*/

For those who work at Malaysia's largest mosques, the job also comes with prestige. Jefri regularly shakes hands with prime ministers and sultans. On the days when his azan, or call to prayer, is nationally televised, Jefri's parents gather in front of the television with friends in the small village where he grew up near Malacca, the old Portuguese and Dutch trading post. His mother cries when she hears his voice. /*/

"When I was young, I watched the live broadcast from the Masjid Negara," Jefri said in his office across the hall from the huge, open-air praying area, where janitors were rolling out carpets for prayer on a recent Friday. "I thought it was so melodic. It touched me. All of these people coming because you call them." In secondary school, he won a Koran-reading competition, but he never really studied the azan, he said. "I listened to the TV and memorized the melody," he added. When seeking the muezzin job, Jefri was interviewed by a panel of three judges, who had him recite parts of the Koran and sing the call to prayer. Now, he said, "My life feels easier. I feel it's a blessing from God." /*/

Rise of Conservative Islam in Malaysia

Over the years, Malaysia’s Muslims have become more conservative. Fundamentalist parties are doing better and imposing Muslim law on their constituents. Conservative Islam is very strong in the northeastern province of Kelantan and Terengganu. The Islamic Pan-Malaysian Islamic Party controls the governments there. The fundamentalist movement Malaysia is called dakwah, an Arabic word for “call”—as in “call back to religion.

The fact that fundamentalism has grown while the economy has grown and provided jobs and opportunities defies conventional wisdom. The rise of fundamentalism has been linked with the rise in the disparity of income and unhappiness over corruption and lack of moral direction provided the by the government.

In July 2008, the Malaysian state of Kelantan, which is governed by a conservative Islamic party, announced plans to compel Muslim government workers to pray five times a day as required by their religion. Nik Abdul Aziz Nik Mat, the chief minister the northeastern state, said Muslims who shirk their prayer obligations "are not fearful of Allah and are susceptible to committing bribery and other sins." Kelantan is planning to introduce a law to force Muslim government workers to pray five times a day, said the minister's aide Anual Bakri Haron. Kelantan has been ruled since 1990 by the conservative Pan-Malaysian Islamic Party, which has implemented strict morality rules such as banning gambling, nightclubs and rock concerts. [Source: Associated Press, July 8 2008]

Ian Buruma wrote in The New Yorker, “The increasing conservatism of Malaysian Islam probably stems from insecurity and envy, more than from religious values. Lacking the powerful cultural and historical traditions of the Chinese and the Indians, Malays have been vulnerable to the inroads of Saudi-style Islam. It gives them an identity, a sense of belonging to something stronger than their village traditions.” Professor Lim Teck Ghee, a former World Bank social scientist, said “educated Malays have been too timid to resist, whatever they might do or say in private. “I’ve seen it happening with my progressive university friends,” Lim said. “Wives take to wearing the tudung, the daughters cover up. Their passivity, their silence, is very bad for the community, because it allows the ultras to set the agenda. Islam has become more and more conservative. Muslims can no longer go to non-Malay restaurants or visit the houses of non-Malay friends. Tensions have grown. We’re reverting to the colonial situation, where the different races only meet in the marketplace.” [Source: Ian Buruma, The New Yorker, May 19, 2009 <>]

See Islamic Political Parties and Sharia Justice System Under Government

Muslim Women’s Clothing Customs in Malaysia

Traditionally-dressed Malay women wear long-sleeve, ankle-length caftans (loose dresses) made from shimmering materials and tudungs, pharaoh-like head scarves that are fastened below the chins with a pin and sometimes hang down like boy-scout neckerchiefs. Others wear head coverings that are wrapped around the head and are not pinned under the chin and look like head scarves worn by women in the Middle East.

Before the 20th century, Malay women still wore kemban, just sarongs tied above the chest, in public. As Islam became more widely embraced, they started wearing the more modest yet elegant baju kurung. The baju kurung is a knee-length loose-fitting blouse that is usually worn over a long skirt with pleats at the side. It can also be matched with traditional fabrics such as songket or batik. Typically, these traditional outfits are completed with a selendang or shawl or tudung or headscarf.

The caftans often have batik prints of bright, shimmering pink, red, orange, purple and that are coordinated to match the equally bright headscarves. Many women wear a sarong under the caftan. Some caftans have a yoke that may be decorated or feature colors that contrast with the rets of the caftan.

In conservative areas, women wear white prayer shawls, or mukenahs, when praying at a mosque. Some women hide their faces but breast feed their children in public.

Women working in fields have traditionally worn sarongs that reach just below the knee along with simple loose jackets. The costumes worn by dancers features a longer sarong and a long decorated jacket with long sleeves. Hook and sarong cradles are fastened to the luggage rack in trains.

Image Sources:

Text Sources: New York Times, Washington Post, Los Angeles Times, Times of London, Lonely Planet Guides, Library of Congress, Malaysia Tourism Promotion Board, Compton’s Encyclopedia, The Guardian, National Geographic, Smithsonian magazine, The New Yorker, Time, Newsweek, Reuters, AP, AFP, Wall Street Journal, The Atlantic Monthly, The Economist, Foreign Policy, Wikipedia, BBC, CNN, and various books, websites and other publications.

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© 2008 Jeffrey Hays

Last updated June 2015

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