Miss Aida
I always have a reason for everything. I always want to be rigbt. My rationality is my strength and my weakness at the same time, where emotions cloud my thoughts. When advice is given I listen, process it silently, and go on my own way regardless. Sometimes I take things to heart and change, but when change comes, it is gradual and after lots of mulling over. Where I first become defensive, prepared to voice my opinions, but I tend to think situations and conversations through the day, and am usually prepared to admit the weaknesses in my opinions if I think so. One of my best friends, Nik, is probably most used to this side of me, considering the number of times we've had in-depth conversations where I've exhibited the classic symptoms I've just described. However, those conversations are ones which help me grow, make me concede that just perhaps, my view on things are limited, that there are all those shades of gray in between. I enjoy those long talks with Nik, because we always discuss things that I take to heart, and on more than one occasion, I've had to admit my weaknesses within and am forced to acknowledge them.

I know that sometimes I do things that are wrong, but I acknowledge I am wrong, and believe that my sins are between me and my maker. My intensely emotional self, my fierce reliance on the confidence of my abilities, my guardedness with emotion... I dare say it was an adapted response from the way my mother pushed me, as mothers do, and I chose to retreat within. While I can be as open as I want with my friends, especially those closest to me, I find it difficult to establish that sort of rapport with my mother. I love her, and respect her, but being the highly volatile individual she is, I've developed a strange sense of self preservation and a very cautious way of responding to her. I've realised that if I were to take to heart every single thing my mother's said to me in my life, I'd be an emotional yo-yo. I suppose that's how I've become who I am, how I can be incredibly trusting and open with my friends, and yet still unable to shake my internal beliefs and responses. A strength and a curse. Strength in times when I shouldn't be swayed, and a curse when I should be listening to the advice of others.

Sometimes I want to break free from the constraints of society, not wanting to care about what people say about me... and I really don't, despite my mother's constant reminders about how I'll have to adapt to society instead of society adapting to me. To be honest, I don't care much about adaptation, although it is probably a process that occurs naturally as opposed to a conscious process. There are too many superficial surfaces, that to follow the dictations of society would be to be torn apart, my individuality ripped and shredded and left on the floor.

There are certain stereotypes of society that women, especially a Malay Muslim woman, is expected to be. I do not want to be the typical 'Perempuan Melayu Terakhir', nor do I pretend to be a traditional woman. There are too many who confuse being traditional with being submissive, and meek, and sweet. God knows I'm none of those things. That doesn't mean that I'm not proud of my culture, my heritage, merely because I prefer jeans over the baju kurung. Just because I prefer English over Malay doesn't mean that I'm not proud of my Johorian roots. Just because I think it's not a matter of disrespect to question a person's opinion openly doesn't mean that I respect the individual any less. I'll damn well speak my mind if I want to. Not all Malay women are from the same mold, but I've met my share of women who I don't think very highly of. I've met my share of discriminating, close-minded women, who think that conformity is the solution to everything.

There are other things I find difficult and on occasion, amusing, especially with power plays between sexes. I wouldn't call myself a feminist, but I believe that men are my equals in many respects, and that most things are based on the individual's capabilities. I've met people that are intimidated by a female being unafraid to take a leading role, a female who's not afraid to voice her opinion or to stand up for something she believes in. I've seen the surprise and sometimes, wariness in the eyes of some guys when I start speaking up. Thankfully, most of the guys I've had to deal with have been awesome in their responses. I've seen some very traditional Malay guys react quite strongly initially to me taking a dominant role in discussions, but I've seen the same guys adapt and respond to the challenge instead of reacting negatively.

There are lots of things I believe in that I find myself getting disturbed over. Things like seeing my Muslim friends turn to alcohol. And the differences in morals. And the worst part, believing that their behaviour is acceptable. In a world where everyone hopes to move with the times, to become part of a modern world, it's much easier to associate modernity with Western views, and it is those views that have penetrated our culture now. What seems cool and hip and cultured, the act of getting drunk and doing drugs, the recklessness of youth and the adrenaline rush of doing the forbidden. Of wanting to create that extra drama in their life, that zing, that zip that sets them apart from everyone else, that seemingly labels them as being 'cool'.

Little things. It's only a cocktail, they say. I don't get drunk. Just a beer. It's only one. Bending the rules of religion? What next, I wonder? Alcohol's alright anytime as long as you don't get drunk. Sex is alright as long as you're careful and you're in love with the person you're carrying the act through with? There are some things which are clearly right and clearly wrong in the Quran. It would be nice to have a little bit of heaven for those individuals who so clearly profess to be Muslim, merely because they're just supposedly only going a little bit out of the way. And on the worse part, pretending that it's all alright, that it's acceptable. The limits and boundaries are becoming blurred, the rights and wrongs meshed and twisted in this culture of constantly growing urbanisation.

The laws of religion are there for a reason... Perhaps because in the confused world we live in, it is the only thing that saves us from our ultimate self destructive behaviours. Alcohol becomes a part of the body, it becomes flesh and blood. It is not merely for the physical benefits that it is forbidden, but Muslims believe it affects more than the physical, from the absorption of knowledge, to matters of the heart. The West may ignore the social illnesses due to alcohol, defensively bringing up scientific evidence that alcohol is beneficial in certain cases. True enough, two glasses of red wine a day decreases the risk of heart disease. Nevertheless, the Quran allows for this; the line that basically says that true, alcohol does bring some benefit, but because the bad that it brings far outweighs the good, it is therefore not allowed.

Perhaps it seems like I come off as smirkingly self-righteous in my reflections. I've had people ask me why it's so wrong. And I hope God forgives whoever told them that it wasn't.

Woman and modesty, the sins I myself acknowledge I rack unto my shoulders by not covering myself with the headscarf. It would be nice to have the freedom to wear anything I'd like, merely because I am comfortable with my physicality, and I sometimes forget that there are less than reputable individuals in this world. The lust of men, for one, the disgusting way some men tend to undress women with their eyes which borders on emotional harassment, and in almost all cases, people blame the woman and say that she asked for that sort treatment merely because she chooses to wear what she wants. The laws of religion are for protection, and acknowledge that humans are weak in so many ways. The saying goes, in all situations, the extra party is always Satan.

Is it so difficult believe that religion and culture and being modern can go hand in hand, and that one does not have to conform in order to live as a Malay and a Muslim in this world? Is it so difficult to modernise and move on with the times without turning a blind eye on the responsibilites of a Muslim? Perhaps at times like these my stubbornness is my strength. It's too easy to go with the flow. Too many times tempted to ignore what has been ingrained in me and indulge. Let loose. I fear for myself... and fear for the fate of my children.
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