A couple of days ago, Malaysian gymnast Farah Ann Abdul Hadi’s made Malaysia proud when she snagged a gold medal at the 28th Southeast Asian Games (SEA Games) in Singapore. Having impressed the judges with her style and movements, Farah emerged as the judge’s favourite and won a bronze medal in the balance beam event.

She presented a great display during the floor exercise routine and collected 13.733 points to grab the ultimate win.

Farah Ann Abdul Hadi of Malaysia competes during the women's floor excercise routine final at the 28th Southeast Asian Games (SEA Games) in Singapore on June 10, 2015. AFP PHOTO / MOHD FYROL
Farah Ann Abdul Hadi of Malaysia competes during the women’s floor excercise routine final at the 28th Southeast Asian Games (SEA Games) in Singapore on 10th June 2015. AFP PHOTO / MOHD FYROL

Alas, what should’ve been a widely celebrated occasion instead drew flak from certain Malaysian netizens, particularly a percentage of the Muslim community, due to the 21-year-old Muslim gymnast’s leotard.

Her picture, first shared by Buletin TV3 via their Facebook page, became the subject of attention as several Facebook users criticised her for not covering up her “aurat” and showing off “the shape of her vagina” in leotard.

Note: Islam requires both Muslim men and women to wear clothes that will not reveal the curves and shape of her body, in protection of their honour and integrity. However, criticisms are often targeted against women.

Farah Ann SEA Games

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Other Facebook users as well as Malaysian leaders rushed in to defend Farah Ann, asking people to acknowledge Farah’s talent instead of getting heated over her gymnastic attire. This includes Parti Gerakan Rakyat Malaysia Youth Chief Tan Keng Liang, Malaysian Gymnastics Federation secretary N. Shanmugarajah, Malaysia’s Minister of Youth & Sports Khairy Jamaluddin, as well as Tun Dr Mahathir’s daughter and social activist Datin Paduka Marina Mahathir.

Marina Mahathir said the attacks against Farah Ann were a sign of how the country was in danger of being overtaken by “stupidity”. At the Cooler Lumpur Festival panel discussion, she commented:

No, I don’t think we’ll be a Taliban state yet; we’ll be a stupid state first. The trouble is, our top leadership, we do have small and petty-minded people. They see these leaders saying things ― “bocor” lah, “ni lah”, crosses on “telekungs” for instance ― nobody laughs at them. In another country, people would point at the politicians and say, “What a dumb thing to say”. But here they don’t.

And that’s not all.

Farah Ann, too, responded to the criticisms via her personal Twitter account:

Meanwhile, in a report by The Star Online, Perak mufti Tan Sri Dr Harussani Zakaria said that gymnastics was not meant for Muslim women as they would be showing their aurat and body shape, which was clearly against Islamic teachings.

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“If they still want to take part, gymnasts must wear clothes that cover their aurat, which may not be suitable for the sport,” he said.

He added that this applied to other sports such as football, where male players should wear shorts that extended past their knees.

Farah Ann SEA Games 2015

As such, according to TMI, Minister in the Prime Minister’s Department Datuk Seri Jamil Khir Baharom said that the government will review sports attire for athletes following complaints about Farah Ann’s leotard. Jamil Khir told Dewan Rakyat last night that issues that could “shame and taint” Islam must be given serious attention.

“We take attention of this matter so that this becomes a lesson, in whichever field, including sports, for us to look into the clothing and attire,” he said while wrapping up the debate for the religious affairs department for the 11th Malaysia Plan.

He was responding to a question from Siti Zailah Mohd Yusoff (PAS-Rantau Panjang) who asked if the Department of Islamic Development Malaysia (Jakim) have issued regulations on clothing for athletes that the Youth and Sports Ministry can implement.

What do you guys think though? Do you think there should be regulations on clothing for athletes? How else would Farah Ann have dressed while competing for the gymnastics title, so as to not hinder her performance? And what about our national swimmers?

UPDATE (17th June, 3pm):

Khairy Jamaluddin has stepped forward to say that athletes don’t have to abide by any dress code drawn up by the Malaysian Islamic Development Department (JAKIM), and that JAKIM’s guidelines “was just a guideline and there’s no compulsion to it”.

In a report from The Star Online, Khairy was quoted as saying:

It’s up to the athletes to follow the guidelines and there’s no compulsion to cover up… I hope this settles it. We have to remember some sports attires are regulated by the sports federations … besides, the athletes only wear the attire during competitions, they don’t wear it every day.

He also slammed the critics as hypocrites and said the issue smacked of sexism.

“Farah is an adult and has been brought up well. She knows what she’s doing and old enough to decide for herself. Male athletes don’t get this kind of attention, body-builders wear much more revealing trunks. The critics can look elsewhere … or, if they cannot contain themselves, we will have to ban them from entering stadiums,” Khairy said.

Who’s with him on this? Let us know what you think in the comments box below!

Sources: TMI, The Star Online (1), MMO, The Star Online (2).

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Lainey
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