Motley Moose – Archive

Since 2008 – Progress Through Politics

Tomboy Fatwa.

(cross posted at kickin it with cg)

The AP is reporting that Malaysia’s main body of Islamic clerics has issued an edict today banning tomboys in the Muslim-majority country, ruling that girls who act like boys violate the tenets of Islam.

The National Fatwa Council forbade the practice of girls behaving or dressing like boys during a meeting Thursday in northern Malaysia, said Harussani Idris Zakaria, the mufti of northern Perak state, who attended the gathering.  Harussani said an increasing number of Malaysian girls behave like tomboys, and that some of them engage in homosexuality. Homosexuality is not explicitly banned in Malaysia, but it is effectively illegal under a law that prohibits sex acts “against the order of nature.”  Harussani said the council’s ruling was not legally binding because it has not been passed into law, but that tomboys should be banned because their actions are immoral.

“It doesn’t matter if it’s a law or not. When it’s wrong, it’s wrong. It is a sin,” Harussani told The Associated Press. “Tomboy (behavior) is forbidden in Islam.”  Under the edict, girls are forbidden to sport short hair and dress, walk and act like boys, Harussani said. Boys should also not act like girls, he said.  “They must respect God. God created them as boys, they must behave like boys. God created them as girls, they must act like girls,” he said.

Council chairman Abdul Shukor Husin said the ruling was prompted by recent cases of young women behaving like men and indulging in homosexuality, according to the national news agency Bernama. He did not elaborate.  Malaysian media have reported on recent incidents of school bullying among girls, which have been caught on film and circulated on the Internet. In one film, some girls are seen beating up another girl in a bathroom.  A well-known Malaysian Muslim actress caused an uproar last year when she shaved her head bald for a film. Harussani and other muftis urged Muslims not to watch the movie, arguing that the actress had violated Islam by making herself look like a man.  

Muslims make up some 60% of Malaysia’s 27 million people, and are subject to Islamic laws and the council’s edicts, even if the rulings have not been enshrined in national or Shariah law.  As was noted, it was not immediately clear what kind of punishment awaited those who violate the tomboy edict.


  1. History is strewn – to the point of near unanimity – with cultures where religious beliefs are enforced on the entire population.  It is impossible by any definition to have personal freedom while a group in power can forbid you from throwing a coconut with your left hand because it offends the Wind God.

    It is inconceivable to me to imagine having to constrain the behavior of my daughters to fit an viewpoint like this.  It would be an infinite number of cuts to my heart and soul to stop Roxanne from doing the things that somebody decided aren’t right for her.

  2. spacemanspiff

    So if a cancer patient went through chemotherapy and shaved her hair before letting it fall in clumps she would be banned (whatever the hell that means)?

    Kind of reminds me of another douchebag.

    “In Iran we don’t have homosexuals like in your country,” Ahmadinejad said to howls and boos among the Columbia University audience.

    “In Iran we do not have this phenomenon, I don’t know who has told you that we have it,” he said.


  3. dtox

    calling it a ‘ban’ is a bit of a stretch.

    Mainstream Muslims are and always have been very wary of rulings from this sort of council or any church-like structure. I’ve always felt that the influence of fatwas seems to be vastly overstated in Western media. I very much doubt that there are too many people in Malaysia who consider themselves “subject to … the edicts of the council”.

  4. Hollede

    the Persian men did not know what to think about me. I think many thought I was a boy. I will say the experience of growing up female in an Islamic country fed a future feminist.

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