Learning about Indonesian language, history, society and culture

Month: March, 2015

“What the hell is the ideal Islamic woman anyway?” – Dina Torkia

This was the pointed question asked by the popular British Islamic fashion vlogger looking back on her experience taking part in World Muslimah, a global Muslim beauty pageant hosted in Jakarta and Yogyakarta, as part of a documentary for BBC3.

One such point of contestation is ideas of female modesty in Islam, with Torkia exlpaining in a Guardian interview that through the experience she had come to see ““how the hijab is worn in so many different ways based on different cultures, not religion”” One might add politics to that, with controversies about, and differing understandings of, the headscarf in Indonesia featuring in a series of articles in Inside Indonesia.

The film also raises broader issues of identity – how does a universal religion deal with cultural differences and national identities? Interestingly participating in a global Islamic event seems in some ways to heighten Dina’s sense of difference and national identity, saying:

“Our cultures are so different, and for me that makes it pretty much impossible for any competition to judge who’s a good Muslim and whose not. I’m so British next to these girls. I don’t know what it is but it’s in me. I really didn’t realise how British I am. My British side just came roaring out of nowhere.”


The Ambivalence of an Executioner

With global attention directed at Indonesia’s use of the death penalty, the Guardian carries a revealing piece about the ambivalence felt by a member of official firing squads:

“I don’t make conversation with the prisoners. I treat them like they are a member of my own family,” he explains, “I say only, ‘I’m sorry, I am just doing the job…’”

“I am bound by my oath as a soldier,” he said. “The prisoner violated the law and we are carrying out a command. We are just the executors. The question of whether it is sin or not is up to God…”

“I hope that I won’t have to keep doing this indefinitely. There are some 50 people on death row so it could be my turn to execute again,” he says. “I’m not that happy doing it … If there are other soldiers, let them do it.”