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Aug 14, 2009

FATWA talk about PENGKID

(This is a translation of the interview FATWA , which was conducted in Bahasa Malaysia)

Q: What is the actual definition of “pengkid”?
Pengkid refers to a married woman or maiden whose appearance or image is like that of a man. Although this also includes the dressing of the person and not just the way she behaves, the way of dressing is just one aspect of what makes a pengkid.

A woman may be dressed as a woman, but her behaviour may be like a man, or it might be a combination of this. She might also have a sexual desire for women.

Q: Is it close to, or is it actually lesbianism?
We can’t say that all people who are pengkid are lesbians. That wouldn’t be right. That’s why I say it is “hampir”.

Hampir means she doesn’t do that act, but she is heading that way. For instance, Islam forbids people from coming close to zina. That means, not only is the act forbidden, but any act that may lead to the actual act is also forbidden.

I believe there is no religion that allows lesbianism or homosexuality. But anything that can drive or lead towards it should also be stopped. So, this is the culture that we are trying to stop.

Actually, we are trying to save these women (from be coming lesbians).

Q: When you translate this fatwa into English, the word “tomboy” is used instead of “pengkid”. “Tomboy” in English doesn’t have a sexual connotation. So, what do you mean by “dressing like a man”?
This is what we mean by “fitrah”.

A safe way is to teach children, whether male or female, from an early age to follow their respective fitrah.

If we allow this budaya practice (of pengkid) to continue to develop, it will become an tradition, and then a norm. When it becomes a norm, then people will think no longer think of it as a wrong. This is something we do not want to happen.

That’s why we want to go back to the fitrah. If you follow your fitrah, the chances of you being safe is higher, compared with if we were to completely give freedom until you could not differentiate between feminine characteristics and male characteristics.

Q: Is there any proof that if a woman dresses as a man, she will become a lesbian? What is the link between clothes and lesbianism?
Perhaps this is something that is different between the Islamic perspective and non-Islamic perspective.

Our approach is based on a rule of the maxim in Islamic jurisprudence – that we prevent the opportunity for some thing bad to happen. We believe this is a good approach in preventing something bad which is forseeable, based on research and other issues.

This principle is used when determining a fatwa.

Back to the issue of clothes. We have said from the beginning that dressing is not the sole factor (in lesbianism). It is more about behaviour. Don’t forget, a pengkid might be very feminine, but she is a pengkid because of her behaviour and sexual desires.

Q: So, a pengkid has a sexual connotation?
Yes. This is what we are worried about. What is meant by pengkid is a person who is inclined to be attracted to someone of the same sex.

It starts with the clothes and the behaviour.

What we are most worried about is that this person might go to the extreme level. That is why we feel it is safer for each person to strive to follow or abide by his or her fitrah.

A woman would be more damai (at peace) if she had a man as a companion.

Q: We can’t.
Alright. But what if the woman who behaves like a man attracts the attention of other women. Doesn’t that also present a threat of harassment?

Q: If that’s the rationale, then I’m better off dressed as a man. For, if I were to dress as a man, I would be harassed by fewer women than I would be by men, were I to be dressed as a woman.
(laughs) Actually, the danger to you would then be that you would be harassed by men, and there would be a new harasser (women).

But a pengkid is not just about dressing. Dressing is just one of the factors. A woman might have a husband, wears a baju kurung and tudung. But if her behaviour and desire is towards other women, this is where the woman starts to neglect her husband or even leaves him for her woman companion.

Q: And if the woman leaves her husband for another man?
That is another issue.

What we are discussing right now is the destruction of the family institution, which would affect the children.

And, it might even come to a point sometime in the future, where it could affect the grandchildren. Because these days, as Joan Collins says, even grandmothers are well turned out.

Q: Surely grandmothers are allowed to dress up.
Yes, but think of the effects on the grandchildren (if the grandmother is a lesbian). This threat is not impossible. It might happen to young grandmothers, who might have an interest in other women.

So, don’t think that pengkids are just a danger to maidens. It is also a threat to (married) women. Whether she is a maiden, a married woman, or even a grandmother, she can be exposed to this problem.

Dressing is just one factor.

Q: What is in our hearts is not visible, whereas clothes is something people can see, and that is the thing upon which people can take action. What we are afraid of is the harassment and victimisation of women, whom you say you are trying to save. Your fatwa can have negative repercussions.
What would happen if we didn’t give any advice or reminders to save our people? If we allow this problem to continue and expand, our eastern culture will be no different from the western culture. Where would our religious values go?

We consider the fatwa as an advice to parents. Parents love their children. So, this opinion (fatwa) is to save the next generation. At the same time, we have to remember that a fatwa also saves culture.

Q: I want to look at the application. What is are the characteristics or traits or elements that are considered feminine? What is the dresscode for women?
The dresscode for Muslim women is based on ensuring her safety, honour and femininity. So, the issue of the shape of dress, colour and so on is not an important issue.

In Islam, the important keyword is aurat (parts of the body which must be covered). In the context of a woman, she must not only be fully covered (except for the face and hands), but her clothes must not show the shape of her body.

For instance, people always say Muslim women cannot wear jeans. But who says they can’t? In reality, Muslim women can wear jeans in public, but it has to be complemented by other things so that the shape of her body will not be revealed.

But when she goes into her own house with her family members, the jeans doesn’t become a problem.

Q: The problem with the possible interpretations of this fatwa is that it may go back to the days when women were oppressed. It might even, to an extreme degree, lead people to say that women should not be engineers.
Does Islam forbid women from being engineers?

Q: No, it doesn’t. But what is the practice?
A practice may be a tradition, not religious teaching. We are talking about religious teaching.

We are in Malaysia, not Bangladesh where they mix-up their cultural practices with their religious practices.

Over here, we are talking about what is taught by religion.

Q: That is because you are a thinking person. You cannot assume that everyone in society is going to think like that.
That’s why we issued the fatwa with an explanation, so that people would understand that this is a religious requirement. It is not a restriction that has nothing to do with religion.

Also, don’t forget that religion is actually very flexible. A lot of traditional practices can be accepted into religious practice. The principle of Islamic jurisprudence is that an adat tradition) can be accepted as hukum (decision). But that depends on what kind of adat. Certainly, not an adat that oppresses women, for that is not in keeping with the demands of religion. It is Islam that freed women.

Q: Why didn’t you come out with a fatwa reminding everyone that homosexuality – male or female – is wrong, and homosexuals should be advised about this. Why did you focus only on lesbians?
Everyone understands homosexuality and lesbianism. In the context of religion, this is a deviant practice.

But we are focusing on pengkids right now because it is a new trend that some people in society feel is not wrong. They see it as only a trend. If you only look at clothes, it might be seen as only a fashion trend.

This is what worries us.

As far as leabianism, homosexuality and zina (illicit sex) are concerned, there’s no need for a fatwa, because the rules are already clear on this. I think everyone already understands this. And all the provisions exist in law.

A fatwa focuses on new things where society is uncertain of its rightness or wrongness.

As a result of Jakim’s study, we concluded that this is a trend that our society seems unclear on, and even Muslims think it’s a normal thing. And this is something we are concerned about, because it can influence our children.

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