Sunday, November 23, 2008

FATWA ON PENGKID: Jakim clears the air

Aniza Damis

EXACTLY one month ago, the National Fatwa Council made a decision against women who dressed like men, denouncing it as haram. This has been met with anger, protest, and mainly, confusion, as to what exactly it is that the fatwa condemns. ANIZA DAMIS speaks to Malaysian Department of Islamic Development (Jakim) director-general Datuk Wan Mohamad Sheikh Abd Aziz to get a clearer picture of the issue.

The fatwa against pengkid as released by the National Fatwa Council on Oct 23:

“Pengkid, that is, women who have the appearance, mannerisms and sexual orientation similar to men is haram in Islam.

“We urge parents and the Muslim community to pay serious attention to this problem. Emphasis should be placed on teaching and guiding young girls especially on the aspects of their clothing, behaviour and appearance so that this problem may be avoided, because it runs counter to their fitrah and Allah’s way.”

(Fitrah: the innate natural sexual inclination that each human is born with, and which does not change. In Islam, if a person is born male, he is masculine and is sexually attracted to women; and if a person is born female, she is feminine and sexually attracted to men.

Q: What is the actual definition of “pengkid”?

A: 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.

This brings it “hampir” (close) to the practice of lesbianism.

Q: Is it close to, or is it actually lesbianism?

A: 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”?

A: 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 are higher, compared with if we were to completely give freedom until you could not differentiate between feminine characteristics and male characteristics.

Q: Unlike in other Muslim countries where a fatwa is an advisory, in Malaysia it is law. Do you really want to make this fatwa law?

A: In Malaysia, not all fatwas become law. It only becomes law when it is gazetted. And not all fatwas in Malaysia are gazetted.

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