Who decides what is moderate?

LET'S have a sepia flashback of growing up in the 1980s, as an example. Girls of all races could wear pinafores. They could skip the headscarf when wearing a baju kurung. Boys could go about in short pants without any issue either.

Sharing a canteen for food was not an issue, nor was drinking from the same water bottle for that matter.

Flashback to the 1960s, and you would see Malay women in skirts and blouses, and tight fitting kebayas. Drinking alcohol led to eye rolling, but nothing more. Dance parties were all the rage, along with sitting around listening to bossa nova.

Let's come back to the present day. Suddenly, you can see a six-year-old girl in a burkini swimming in a pool. A four-year-old is already donning a headscarf while the mother wears a full-faced veil to protect her modesty.

Kids go to prayers at the suraus no longer wearing a baju Melayu or a simple t-shirt with a kain pelikat, but full jubahs wafting with the scent of oud.

Wearing a leotard in sports is somehow ruining modesties, regardless how many gold medals you contribute to the nation. Even diving teams are told off for skimpy bikinis, even when they're not even Muslims.

Not wearing a headscarf is frowned upon in certain jobs, wearing one is also frowned upon in others. At the same time, mingling with other races is now somehow seen as no longer necessary or even questioned and viewed with concern.

The rise of social media has made anyone with access to Quranic teachings able to somehow judge, harangue, bully and even threaten murder online.

For myself, being the liberal nut that I am, I take a step back and ask – what happened? Was there some major gathering somewhere, where it was decided that shorts for schoolboys was no longer cool? Or that pinafores were a mark of a liberal upbringing?

Was there suddenly a glut in cloth that needed to be dealt with by promoting long pants, skirts and long-sleeved uniforms?

When did a headscarf or the absence of one become a policy for recruitment? And more importantly, how does one sunbathe in a burkini?

You have to wonder when this all started happening, and at the same time ask yourselves – is this conservatism the new moderate?

And this question especially applies to the Malay community, my community, as you can see above. Where do we draw the line of moderate, radical, conservative and liberal?

At the same time, how do we determine what is acceptable in the so-called siege mentality of "non-Muslims are interfering in our affairs"?

We must also strive to understand that there are those who use religion as a marketing tool, for the pure sake of profit, and using it as an excuse to belittle and attack naysayers.

We have seen this becoming a trend, to the point that somehow religion can be used as an excuse to assist in helping an uncertified dentist pay her fines. Yet, the same crowd would lambast a doctor for not wearing a headscarf.

In that sense, there seems to be some double standards when we consider who we praise and who we attack, to a point that confuses the entire world. We would rather praise and support those who could threaten national harmony, rather than call them out for their racist preaching.

Last week, this happened with a well-known religious leader who spoke to a crowd, saying that halal laundromats were something that shouldn't be denied and that the Sultan was wrong for doing so. He is now facing a sedition charge.

And yet, there was no outcry over the problem in which he also accused the Chinese for being unclean. Hopefully, the police report filed by a DAP lawmaker will find him accused of endangering racial harmony under our Penal Code.

Ironically, the religious leader who believed that Chinese are unclean and don't wash themselves properly, is also heading a government-sponsored terrorist rehabilitation centre.

However, Malays need to ask themselves, how did we get to a point where we are even considering the issue of cleanliness in shared washing machines? How did we get to a point of telling our kids not to mingle with others from different races?

How did we get to a point where we would suddenly sacrifice our nation's racial integrity and unity, and for what cause? And what does it mean to be moderate?

Does it mean making every woman wear a headscarf? To ban the wearing of leotards and shorts by women in sports? To have someone design proper attire for these sports to ensure compliance with their personal views of what is acceptable? Perhaps you would like to write in and tell us, just what exactly is your current definition on moderation.

Hafidz Baharom is a public relations practitioner. Comments: letters@thesundaily.com