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Friday, June 15, 2007



This morning (Friday June 15, 2007) when I was ironing some clothes, my mom was watching a television program called (if I am not mistaken) MAMAH DAN AA. This is a religious program, aired at Indosiar, every Friday from 5am till 6am.

Frankly speaking, after recognizing myself as a secular and having my own interpretation about the religion I have adhered since I was born, I didn’t really like watching such programs. I realize I sound arrogant for my own interpretation. However, in my opinion I often found many ulemas in such religious programs on television very patriarchal and wise guys when interpreting Alquran. As a feminist, I often feel annoyed with what is stated by those patriarchal ulemas (both men and women). As a secular and believing that people from different religions must support religious plurality all over the world, I often feel upset when some (narrow-minded) ulemas talk bad things about other religions, only to attract people’s attention to Islam or to convince the viewers/audience that Islam is the only absolute truth.

That’s why at first I felt disturbed with the sound of the television. While ironing, I was listening to some songs from my cutie notebook. However, when one caller asked the hostess, called as MAMAH, I was intrigued by the question. A married woman asked whether it was okay for a man to have affairs. She has got married for more than twenty-five years, and has four children. Unfortunately her husband was not a loyal one because she already found out three other women in her husband’s life. She asked, “What is the regulation for a married man to have affairs out of the marriage?”

If I read the question between the lines, because the caller emphasized on “a married man”, I concluded that behind the question, it was stated that “It is not okay for a married woman to have affairs, but it is okay for a married man to do that.” I remember around a year ago I happened to find a blog belonging to a Muslim (narrow-minded, misogynist) man who wrote that polygamy can be legally carried out without the consent of the first (or earlier) wife. He wrote (sorry, I didn’t note the blogsite, so I don’t remember it now) that a man is naturally polygamous so that it must be understandable if a man wants to have more than one wife. And to understand that nature, a man doesn’t need the consent of the other wife, and doesn’t need any reason either, such as what is written in the Compilation of Islamic Law in Indonesia (e.g. the first wife is infertile so that she cannot get pregnant, she suffers from a serious disease that will hamper her to serve the husband, she leaves and ignores her husband and children).

The question that can be interpreted as what I wrote above made me turn down the volume of the cutie notebook, and I tried listening to Mamah’s answer. She said, “It is absolutely not okay for married men and married women to have affairs. Allah stated in Alquran, “Don’t get close to adultery”. Only to get close to it is prohibited, moreover to do it. So, to answer your question, of course it is a big sin for your husband to have affairs, moreover to do adultery.”

The answer was quite soothing to my ears because the hostess mentioned that the law to stay away from adultery is for both men and women. It means she wanted to tell the audience/viewers not just to question, “Is it okay for a man to have affairs?” The question must be, “Is it okay for married couple—both men and women—to have affairs?”

The following gender-biased question came from one audience in the studio. “What does the Islamic law say about a woman who opens her husband’s mobile phone to read the messages and his mailbox to read the emails secretly?”

Referring to the consensus in patriarchal culture that a wife belongs to her husband, just like any other properties the husband has, many men think that they have full rights to know anything his wife keeps. On the contrary, since he is THE BOSS, THE PROPRIETOR, the wife doesn’t have any right to know anything the husband keeps.

The same as the first case, I also read the question like this, “It is okay for a husband to check his wife’s mobile phone and mailbox because he owns her. But not on the other way around.”

Different from what other people say that I often hear, husband and wife are supposed not to keep any secret, (once they got married, they already become one, one body, one thinking, one idea, and since it is somewhat impossible to do it, mostly the husband’s way of thinking will represent both of them, and the wife must bury her idea if she happens to have different way of thinking), the hostess said, “If you don’t want your husband to know your private life, I believe that although already married, each of us sometimes still wants to have some part of our life that is private, don’t get nosy to find out what secrets your husband has. It also applies on the other way around. A husband must respect his wife’s privacy too. What is needed between a couple is trust. Don’t bother yourself with unimportant suspicion.

The last question came from a caller living somewhere in Central Java area. A woman complained about her husband’s not pious behavior. He very rarely does the ritual ceremony of the religion, such as praying five times a day. She asked whether it is okay for her to file a divorce.

The hostess said that if the woman really found a dead end to encourage her husband to be a pious Muslim, she could file a divorce.

“Will God be angry with me?” the caller asked.

The hostess said that the reason is quite strong for her to file a divorce. It is much better to live single—or marry another man who is pious—rather than to have a husband whose behavior is annoying and disturbing the peaceful life of the family.

Well, I must say that I felt quite satisfied with the answers and suggestion given by the hostess of the program. Perhaps I took this conclusion very quickly since I have never watched it before. However, I think it is really high time for us to have such religious programs that are really friendly to women. I also opine that it is high time to have religious programs where the hosts/hostesses come from various different religions in Indonesia to create peaceful religious plurality. The most important thing in hablum minannaas (relationship among human beings) is to do good to others, no matter what religion our neighbors/friends have, and not imposing someone’s faith to others. The most important thing in hablum minallah (relationship between human beings with their God) is everybody’s personal affair.

PT56 150607


triesti said...

last night i watched rerun of geloof, seks & (wan)hoop [belief, sex, & (despair) hope. last night episode talked about Islam & sex in morocco. how men want to marry virgin, but wont be virgin themselves, how man has to wait having his orgasm until giving his partner one. gay in Arab society. and oh.. apparently according to some Moroccan gals, men are a degree higher than women. I bet if you could understand Dutch u gonna like it. ;)

A Feminist Blog said...

It sounds like the culture in Indonesia, right Triesti? Most students I have had in my teaching experience find my ideas awkward. Especially female students love that, but they say that they don't really dare to "oppose" the established culture. :(