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Jakarta post

by Jennie S. Bev

I visit Las Vegas whenever I want to watch my favorite singers performing. A few years ago, Celine Dion dominated Caesar Palace’s center stage, now it is Cher. Barry Manilow at Paris Las Vegas and Jubilee at Bally’s are two other top shows to see. Another show worth watching is Zumanity by Cirque Du Soleil.

Jubilee is a lavish cabaret show with topless dancers wearing beads, furs, and enormous glittery headdresses.

These flexible dancing girls are in top physical condition, and the ambiance is sensually acrobatic. Most performers wear skimpy attire. Only Barry Manilow wears a full tuxedo when performing.

Is morality determined by the length of someone’s clothing? Should we bother thinking about what people wear in Indonesia? Why, or why not?

It is not my place to judge morality or values, other than praising these Vegas dancers as top-notch international performers. Their cultured skill and stamina have been tested and appreciated by audiences for years.

In Indonesia, talkative and communicative ministers like Communications and Information Technology Minister Tifatul Sembiring and Justice and Human Rights Minister Patrialis Akbar have taken to dictating Indonesia’s “high moral values.”

In his latest statement, Patrialis urged western women not to wear only their bras when visiting Indonesian markets because it doesn’t adhere to Indonesian values. Tifatul has committed to blocking porn Web sites during Ramadan.

We respect our Muslim brothers and sisters who are fasting in the holy month of Ramadan. Perhaps blocking porn websites is a logical precautionary action to ensure Muslims fast without thinking about sexual intercourse or masturbation. Yet I believe “temptation” is a good test of one’s faith.

I appreciate a person who may be surrounded by bad influences but still prevails by choosing faith and true piety.

If all temptations are removed, leaving someone in an empty room, I’m sure they will be pious by default, but not necessarily by choice. Such “piety” is cosmetic.

What bothers me more is Patrialis’ statement on western women who wear only bras to Indonesian markets. Frankly speaking, I have never seen any western woman wearing only a pair of bras while shopping.

I travel considerably to western countries and live in California. Los Angeles, where sensual Hollywood movie sirens live, is merely a one-hour flight away from home. If it were true that western women merely wear bras everywhere they go, I surely would have seen them in my 13 years of living here.

Patrialis, who is supposed to show great tolerance and impartiality in his position as Indonesia’s Justice and Human Rights Minister, has instead expressed intolerance and prejudice.

Perhaps he is not a fashion critic. Western women may wear tank tops, which are sleeveless shirts, or backless blouses when shopping. Neither are brasseries. They may wear bikinis at the beach, but they aren’t brasseries either.

All women should freely have the right to wear whatever they want, and their morality should not be judged by their choice of clothing. If one doesn’t like what others are wearing, simply don’t look at them.

We own our own eyes, so let us control what we choose to see, rather than attempting to control what others wear.

Remember, Indonesia is not a theocracy. Indonesia is based on a secular constitution, which is contrary to misconceptions that Indonesia has an Islamic government. In Indonesia, fashion is not used as a form of control, unlike in Iran, where hair styles are pre-determined by the government.

Tala Raassi, an American-born Iranian fashion and swimsuit designer, was lashed 40 times for celebrating her sweet 16th birthday wearing a miniskirt while partying with co-ed friends in a private home in Iran. Fashion is now her way of expressing freedom and equality, which is also her ticket to success with her fashion line carried by boutiques in Miami, Los Angeles, San Diego and Dubai.

I would love to take both ministers Tifatul Sembiring and Patrialis Akbar to a cabaret show in Las Vegas. There they can see how the human body is beautiful, and near-nudity is not trashy. From those flexible Cirque Du Soleil performers who wear skimpy and body-hugging leotards, we can learn to appreciate the hard-working muscles we all have. Their muscles are just like ours, only theirs work better because of years of training.

We can see remarkable things when we look beyond the obvious. During the holy month of Ramadan, let’s see beyond what our eyes observe, and look deep into people’s hearts by appreciating their achievements, no matter how small or how different they may be from our expectations.

The true spirit of Ramadan isn’t based on judging people by how they look on the outside, but instead, respecting who they are on the inside. Marhaban ya Ramadan.[]

The Jakarta Post, August 19, 2010

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