I was a student leader once, so i think i understand the politics at play here. The spokesman of the Student leaders of public institutions of higher learning (IPTA), Mohd Efendi Omar (who also happens to be UM’s Student Council President), issued a statement “suggesting that the International Islamic University (IIU) review its ruling requiring non-Muslim students to wear the tudung.”
â€œFor Muslims there is no question about it, but there should be sensitivity when involving non-Muslims. If they (non-Muslims) feel comfortable wearing the tudung, then they should go ahead, but they should not be compelled to do so if they don’t feel comfortable,â€� said Efendi, when contacted yesterday.
via The Star.
Now, i’m not sure when things changed in the IPTA (during my time, an official “suggestion” of this nature was unheard of), but its perhaps not a Pandora’s Box the IPTA should be opening right now: criticising policies and rules of member universities. If the IIU student body, which was democratically elected, and the student administration has no problems with the rule requiring proper Islamic dress for all its students (male and female), then what right does any other student union/body have to tell them to change it? It smacks of high-handedness and interference in the internal matters of IIU.
How would the students of UM feel if the IIU Student Council President came out and took a holier-than-thou approach and “suggest” that all Muslim students of UM be dressed according to the Muslim dress code? The fact that he would do no such thing indicates a sensitivity that Mohd Efendi obviously lacks.
It would be a terrible shame if the media, and the Government begin to take sides on this matter. University rules, policy and discipline exist for a reason — each University has different rules on a wide variety of matters, including dress code. The rules governing dress in MMU, in UM, in UKM, in UPM and in IIU — i’ll bet any amount of money each have different interpretations and implementations of what is decent dress. Some institutions have “no jeans” rules — but how many strictly enforce it? Some institutions have “no short skirts” rules — perhaps the enforcement for this rule is generally stricter. IIU has a “covering of the aurah” rule, for all students, male, female, Muslims and non-Muslims and it enforces it strictly. By saying that non-Muslims are exempt from this rule could, in fact, fracture the student body along religious lines; it’ll be painfully obvious who are Muslims and who are not by their dress alone, and even such a simple demarcation could have lasting adverse effects. Its never a good idea to have different rules for different students; in worst case scenarios, it sets them against each other.
IIU is an Islamic university, after all, modeled after the top Islamic universities in the world. Can you imagine a male student in Al-Azhar walking around around in shorts? Why not, if non-Muslim female students are not required to wear the hijjab, why should male students have to cover their aurah either? Can you see the slippery slope a change in the hijjab rule creates? While we’re at it, why not the food too — if the non-Muslims don’t have to adhere to the dress code, why should they adhere to the dietary code either? Non-Muslims have a right to non-halal food, don’t they? So let’s start service non-halal food services on campus.
The thing about media observations (i.e. what is reported in the news), is that they often leave out the view of the majority; its often the opinion of the minority that sensationalizes the news. Things have probably not changed much in IIU since i left several years ago. I had many non-Muslim friends during my days there, some of the university’s most talented debaters were Chinese and Indians non-Muslims. (A) Not a single one of them complained about the dress code and (B) in the student organization representing non-Muslims, a petition has never been tabled or proposed to the university administration or to the student council to change the dress code rules for non-Muslims. These two things put together are required pieces of information to put the whole issue into context: yes, somebody wrote a letter to Lim Kit Siang, but does that person speak for the non-Muslim students of IIU?