The only Mona I knew was Mona Affendy the serial killer until I bumped into a surreal person like Mona Ershadifar who wrote to Malaysiakini about dress codes in MMU.
People like Mona II are quite a number in the country and – so despite her trying to be a rational philistine – deserve a response.
So a few scattered responses first:a) Malaysia is not an Islamic country. A totalitarian brute before he retired as head honcho, went all over the place claiming it, in order to outflank PAS. It is as much a Christian – Buddhist country as it is a Muslim country. Do these people who say these things, ever wonder how offensive it is to most people?
b) Clothes to not maketh the man, and in a university that point can never be laboured enough.
But to the heart of it, especially since I have been involved with MMU for almost a decade. There is hardly a more vibrant campus environment nationwide.
This is not saying MMU produces betters students, has better faculty or facilities. Not at all.
However the non-asphyxiating culture there – echoed no louder than by its dress code – allows a more relaxed learning space. Plus the kids are not uptight about being culturally repressed, which is a huge winner when it comes to employment by progressive modern firms.
I’ve said this before, but the purpose of a university is learning; the one developed and laid out by the university teaching staff, the other the learning through research and finally of personal self-discovery.
The frightening thing is, if we did a poll in all our public universities, the majority of students will vote for a more conservative dress code. This is despite almost all the kids trying to push the borders of acceptable clothing in their campuses.
Are they so conditioned that they have forgotten they have free will? And if they have lost their free will, then how can you hope for them to be thinkers?
And if they cannot independently think, but harbourly secretly a different life – as Freud would thrive on – we are in one sucky country. Plus our young are walking with severe repression.
Still there are those who ask me why Malaysia has a large porn viewing, incest infested, bully-minded and rational eviscerating population. Look around you.
There is a university in the north, that requires its students to be in work attire daily. In what is a huge campus, kids are waiting in sweltering conditions under limited shade with their ties on, for a bus. There are few things as ridiculous as this – and the university claims that it is preparing their students for work.
They are preparing them for a zombie film, the low budget ones.
Finally, clothes reveal personality. In the 18-23 age period young people are trying to find their own place, and clothes are an easy way to express themselves. Expression is good.
In Japan, their students have accessorise themselves to the stratosphere and it is good. Our kids could benefit from loosening up a bit.
We are in real danger of becoming an obscenely boring country.
As Thais, Filipinos and Indonesians dive into their heritage and reinvent it in the hues of the present, Malaysia walks a tightrope of looking Islamic enough, looking nilai-nilai murni enough.
The result, everyone is fairly uncertain. The only certain is, when unsure, just listen to your leaders.
Culture belongs to everyone, and the defining of what is acceptable has to be up to individuals. States must be minimalists when they set regulations on moral behaviours. Whether on what you wear during lectures or who you sit with in a cinema.
The days of the parochial state is nigh and those who do not heed that reality are likely to lose their brightest hopes to other nations that are just not stuck in places where the sun don’t shine.