Malaysia probes book on Muslim women who refuse to wear headscarves

Muslim women who do not wear the headscarf are a common sight in Malaysia. (AFP)
Updated 17 April 2019
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Malaysia probes book on Muslim women who refuse to wear headscarves

  • A government minister called for a probe into the launch of the book ‘Unveiling Choice’ last weekend
  • The book features Muslim women who discussed why they had stopped wearing a headscarf

KUALA LUMPUR: Malaysia’s religious authorities on Wednesday said they were investigating a book about Muslim women who choose not to wear a hijab, prompting a backlash among women’s rights groups.
The probe is the latest in a series of incidents that have led to women’s rights activists accusing authorities of acting like “fashion police” by trying to control women’s attire in the Muslim-majority nation.
It came after a government minister called for a probe into the launch of the book “Unveiling Choice” last weekend, which featured Muslim women who discussed why they had stopped wearing a headscarf.
“It’s just a sharing of experience, nothing more than that,” said Maryam Lee, author of the book, which she hopes will show that the hijab can be “both liberating and oppressive.”
“(Some) say this is something to promote “de-hijabbing” — that’s not true. It’s a book about experience,” she told the Thomson Reuters Foundation, referring to the removing of the headscarf.
Lee said officers from the Islamic affairs department in the central state of Selangor had obtained copies of the book from the publisher’s office on Tuesday.
A spokeswoman from the department when contacted said it was “looking into the matter” but declined to give further details. Its director Haris Kasim did not respond to requests for comment.
Religious Affairs Minister Mujahid Yusof Rawa said in a statement that he viewed the matter seriously and called for a “fair” investigation.
It was unclear what offenses or laws the book was being investigated over.
Muslim women who do not wear the headscarf are a common sight in Malaysia, and include notable figures like the wife and daughter of Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad.
Other prominent personalities such as former trade minister Rafidah Aziz and ex-central bank governor Zeti Akhtar Aziz also do not wear the hijab.
More than 60 percent of Malaysia’s 32 million population are Muslims, but it is also home to a large number of ethnic and religious minorities who openly practice their religion.
“It’s really disappointing,” said Sumitra Visvanathan, executive director of the non-profit Women’s Aid Organization.
“I would tell the government to butt out of our private lives and how we choose to dress is our business. There is no law in Malaysia that stipulates a woman should or should not wear the headscarf.”
Last year, Mujahid said that the government was planning to introduce a dress code for Muslim women in the workplace, sparking a large public outcry.


Avengers assemble for final battle in ‘Endgame’

Updated 24 April 2019
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Avengers assemble for final battle in ‘Endgame’

  • “Avengers: Endgame” is the final installment of a wildly ambitious 22-film arc featuring the beloved superheroes of the Marvel universe
  • Pundits are predicting a debut weekend that could break records with the first billion-dollar opening in history

LOS ANGELES: After nearly two dozen films and billions of dollars in ticket sales around the globe, the Avengers are gearing up for a final time — and their last adventure could shatter all box office records.
“Avengers: Endgame” is the final installment of a wildly ambitious 22-film arc featuring the beloved superheroes of the Marvel universe, many of them the creations of late comic book legend Stan Lee.
It hits theaters this week — parts of Asia and Europe get the first view of the three-hour epic on Wednesday, and it gets its wide release in the US and Canada on Friday. Pundits are predicting a debut weekend that could break records with the first billion-dollar opening in history.
That would easily beat out the previous record holder, “Avengers: Infinity War,” the first part of the “Infinity Saga” — as it was dubbed by Marvel Studios head Kevin Feige, who has produced every single movie in the franchise — which opened in 2018 with $640.5 million.
After Monday’s star-studded world premiere in Hollywood, the six original Avengers celebrated the end of the road Tuesday at the iconic TCL Chinese Theatre.
Iron Man (Robert Downey Jr.), Captain America (Chris Evans), Thor (Chris Hemsworth), Black Widow (Scarlett Johansson), the Hulk (Mark Ruffalo) and Hawkeye (Jeremy Renner) assembled for a final time with Feige at the TCL Chinese Theatre, where they signed blocks of cement and marked them with handprints.
“It’s been an amazing ride,” Ruffalo — who attempted a handstand while waiting for the cement to set — said of the 10-year project.
The 21 preceding films have earned about $19 billion globally, and though “Endgame” marks the end of the current narrative arc, Marvel Studios is far from through.

Even as they mark the end of what Johansson called a “wonderful” experience, Marvel Studios has already announced several new projects: in addition to sequels for “Spider-Man,” “Black Panther” and “Doctor Strange,” there will also be “Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3,” “The Eternals” and “Black Widow,” the second Marvel universe film to give a female character solo top billing.
“The fun thing about an ending is that you eventually get to do a new beginning,” Feige told AFP.
“So yes, there will be a new beginning, but right now, it’s about this combination of 22 movies. That’s what we’re most excited for.”
In preparation for the marvelous cinematic conclusion, “Endgame” directors Joe and Anthony Russo took to Twitter to post a letter to “the greatest fans in the world.”
“This is it,” they wrote. “This is the end. The end of an unprecedented narrative mosaic spanning eleven years and eleven franchises.”
They acknowledged the massive impact that the Avengers series has had on its fans, saying it was for “all of you who have been on this journey with us since the very beginning.”
Fans have been on the edge of their seats for the conclusion, and the cast has been notoriously tight-lipped during the press tour for fear of potential spoilers.
But someone couldn’t wait: on Sunday, five minutes of “Endgame” footage containing crucial plot points from the finale were anonymously posted online, prompting the Russo brothers’ letter.
The brothers concluded their message with an appeal: not to spoil the end of the movie.
“Remember,” the Russo brothers said, “Thanos still demands your silence. #DontSpoilTheEndgame.”