By Larasati Tanjung (New York, USA)
“Like it or not, you will need to wear something like these when you are older.”
I was born in Depok, Indonesia. I always loved my parents and fully respect them – Islam being the biggest influence making me respect my parents so much. By the way, Allah The Almighty really had commanded us to respect. I had always listened to their every words, doing what they wanted me to do and not doing the ones they said are not supposed to be done. Most of the cases they were right, but in all respect to my parents, they were wrong about one thing: Hijab.
My mother did not wear hijab. My father was trying to convince my mother to wear it, but as my father didn’t know much about Islam himself, he eventually stopped. Or at least that’s what I know. My last name combined with my middle name, Sekar Tanjung, means one thing: to be a famous, well-known person. Even since birth my mother had wished me to be a well-known person at some point in my life, and she was serious about it. She took me into some model agencies, and drove me all the way to Jakarta, the capital city of Indonesia, for me to go on many, many auditions for advertisements. Be it TV ads, printed ads (like in-magazine ads), billboard ads, and anywhere else she could drive me to. Not only me, my little brother was also on this. After going to auditions here and there, I really got into some advertisements. I couldn’t find all of them on the internet, but I have one from when I was in first grade of elementary school. It was an advertisement of a toothbrush. This is the link to the video: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3YJWuSJrSDQ and the little girl in the ad was me.
Just before I got my first menstrual period, I told my father who was a kind and loving man, “Papa, after my first menstrual period I want to immediately wear hijab,” and my father was truly pleased with what I said. However, when I went to my mother and told her the same thing, she said, “What are you talking about? You are not going to stand wearing that on your head all the time – and eventually you are going to remove it anyway. So no, you are not going to wear that.” I knew right away the reason why: if I wear hijab, who would give me a role on any ads? Nobody would, of course.
Back then I was in fourth grade. If mother says no, then no, that’s it.
But when I got to middle school, I found a book about hijab, basically answering women’s doubts on whether to wear hijab or not. I remember there was a section on the book, titled “What if my parents don’t want me to wear it?” and the book’s answer was simple and logical: Your parents are to be respected, and that is very clear in Islam. However, if they are straying you on the wrong path, to whom will you turn back into on Akheerah (Day of The Judgement, the Apocalypse)? And I was screaming inside, “This is it. This is what I expected to hear.”
But then I had another obstacle. My father was too busy with his work, so even if he was the one who made the money, my mother was holding onto it. If she doesn’t want me to wear hijab, how can ask her to give me the money to buy hijab? I couldn’t work that out. Dead end. That’s it – I will have to wait until I make my own money someday, I thought.
My thought of that became even stronger as when I was in the 8th grade, my mother came into my room and gave me two short skirts she just found. She told me she used to wear those when she was younger and slimmer, and she told me to wear those skirts once it fits on my hips. Even though I was not wearing hijab, I had always been disgusted with the thought of wearing short skirts. I don’t care if people want to wear it, but for me, it’s a no-no. I mean, what if you go to a public place, get on a public transportation, sit down, and there are some strangers who could peek into your skirt while you sit? I was young, but I have seen women wearing short skirts on public transportation and trying to cover their private parts with their bag or purse, and that thought alone made me said, “No, I will never wear something like these, Mama.” Turns out that I made my mother upset, and she said, “Like it or not, you will need to wear these [kinds of skirts/clothes] when you are older.”
My mother is a very brave woman. She went from her hometown in another island, all the way to Jakarta when she graduated from university. Arriving in such a big city, she was bewildered by the hustle and bustle, by how much busier and more dynamic Jakarta was, and on top of that, by how difficult it was to find a job. In her hometown it would have been much easier to find a job, or at least that’s what she told me. She went here and there looking for jobs, and ended up with jobs that didn’t really have anything to do with her degree – which is still happening to many people now. Anyway, she fully understood how difficult it was to find a job, and she didn’t want me to experience the same thing. Doesn’t matter how much I hated being in the car right after school, having to go here and there in Jakarta to find pieces of hope on becoming a child actress, I am now fully aware of the fact that there was a big love behind my mother’s action. She wanted me to become an actress, not just because she wanted me to be famous, but rather because famous people have a prestige of getting money easier than the rest of the humanity. She wanted me to live a good, secured life. That’s all.
But for me – no, I would not buy Dunya with Akheerah. I don’t want to buy what has been said to be a good, secured life, by sacrificing my commitment to Allah – the One Who Owns The Here and The Hereafter. My commitment to God himself, who made everything possible in this world. As a believer, that is too much of a price. You just can’t ask for any worse than that. And yes, those thoughts came from the middle-school me. It will always be my life principle, InsyaAllah.
For some reason, my mother finally considered to wear hijab. Not long after, she started wearing hijab until now, Alhamdulillah. Then, the easy part that once had been so difficult to do came to me: asking my mother to buy hijab. She said yes to my will of wearing hijab, and I wore it for the first time to school on 9th grade, just before I faced the Graduation Exam to graduate from my middle school. For your information, middle school in Indonesia starts from 7th grade and ends on 9th grade, when students will take the Graduation Exam in order to graduate.
Until now, Alhamdulillah – Thank God – I have been wearing it everywhere I go. Now here I am, being an exchange student with full scholarship, as an ambassador of Indonesia in USA, and moreover, being a representation of a Muslim in my community. Something that I had never imagine would be possible to be done – something that would not happen without His Will, Allah’s Will.