Two weeks ago, I was in the canteen area of my school, IAIN, buying some avocado juice. A lot of students were sitting there, eating their lunch. I noticed one girl sitting with her friends and did a double take. I had actually seen this scarf before at the mall, but I noticed she was wearing a South Park hijab. I laughed out loud, because for any of you who haven’t seen the show (maybe my Indonesian readers), it is an incredibly crude, (Funny), but pretty offensive show. Many people argue though, that it is disrespectful to EVERYONE, not only certain groups (so that makes it okay). South Park is known for mocking every group, from scientologists, to Mormons, to red-heads, to Christians, Jews, Muslims, African-Americans, gay people, etc. (You get the idea). They are over the top offensive, yet hilarious. Sometimes I can’t even handle it though.
SO, when I saw this girl wearing a South Park hijab, I thought it was hilarious! I mean, the hijab is a symbol of modesty and of the woman’s devotion to Islam. Granted, in Indonesia, they are as much a fashion accessory as anything. The shops stocking the brightly colored scarves are numerous, and I often stop to look at the beautiful designs, colors, and patterns (I have a scarf problem).
I decided I needed a picture, it was just too good. So I walked up to the girl and told her I liked her hijab, and I asked if I could take a photo. She smiled and nodded, so I took one with her killer smile. Afterwards I asked her, “Anda tahu orang ini”? (Probably incorrect, but attempt at: Do you know these people? while pointing to the characters?) I asked if she had seen the TV show, and she shook her head, no. I wasn’t surprised; of course she hadn’t seen it! I am sure the Indonesian government wouldn’t allow that show in here. (Especially with its famous portrayal of the prophet Muhammad.)
So I snapped a photo, thanked here, and of course, uploaded it to Facebook. A few of my friends “shared” it, meaning they posted it on their own Facebook, and so it drifted across the Internet.
The next day, my friend Autumn posted a link to a popular website that shows funny photos, and my picture had made it on there somehow!
I was really surprised at first, and then I felt a little guilty, and I hoped that there wouldn’t be mean comments about this lovely girl. But luckily most people reacted with amusement, not malice.
Some of my favorites:
“This is not in accordance with conventional expectations.” (Thank you, Captain Obvious).
“That smile!! Made me smile and forget my horrid, shitty, soul killing life for a minute.” (haha! Wow, dude!)
“Is that… is that allowed?” (Of course! As long as no one knows who the heck those little cartoon dudes are!)
Unfortunately, there were other sites that got hold of the photo and had comments that were less amused, more ignorant. On MSN some idiot commented: “…Taken moments before being stoned to death by religious zealots….I feel terrible for these women and the conditions they have to live in. Hard to believe in this day and age this goes on.”
What conditions? What exactly goes on?? People wearing hijabs?? Luckily there was a response:
“I must have missed the part where you try to turn everything Muslim into evil murder. It shows the lighter part of this religion and yet there is always someone to try to bash something.” (Thank God for sane people, even though she didn’t actually know who the characters were…)
I got kind of angry reading these ignorant comments (like the first one above), and I felt guilty because it was my photo. However, I really do believe that often the stupidest, most ill-informed, bored, sad, people are the ones who sit behind their computer commenting on things they know nothing about, merely to try to get a rise out of people. It also reminded me that there really are still so many ignorant, uninformed people in the “West” when it comes to understanding what Islam is and what it stands for. And that is why I’m here. Cross-cultural understanding.
After my viral experience, I wasn’t sure if I liked it or not, but hey, it’s a story.
BUT THEN, about a week later, I was hanging out in the food court of the mall (yes, that is my social life in Palembang), with my friends. We were sitting near the escalator, so when people ascended, they popped right up by our table. And I swear, while sitting there for about an hour, we saw 3 women with South Park hijabs and one woman with a South Park SHIRT! (I think we frightened a few when I nudged my friends and we all stared…) I was so excited! I had decided to write a blog about it at this point, so I was trying to get my friends to take photos (with their nicer phones). We snapped one but it was kind of blurry. Then we went down to the basement and met some other friends in a restaurant and I spotted ANOTHER woman wearing one, so finally, my friend Hafiza suggested I just go ask for a photo with her. So I did. Then, we wandered by one of the many stalls, and I saw the scarves! I modeled. And I bought.
I sometimes feel like I should explain how these dudes on the scarves are characters on a horribly offensive show, but luckily for them, I don’t possess such language skills. So for now, I’ll just sport my new scarf…