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Islam Unveiled -

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UNSETTLING MUSIC he wanted no women at his funeral, In his will, Mohammed Atta said no women at his grave. Only, he said, good Muslims. that meant men. To the suicide pilot of September 11, Atta was a man who, like the Taliban, his fear and hatred of women. used Islam to justify who've convinced many in the West It's men like these which hates and oppresses women. that Islam itself is a religion But I want to challenge that view. across the Islamic world I'm going to travel

can find freedom and equality. to ask whether a devout Muslim woman ARABIC MUSIC

in Britain as a Muslim I was born and brought up the rise of fundamentalist Islam and have watched with bewilderment. I reported on its growth. As a journalist, whether it was still a faith As a feminist, I questioned I could call my own. of Islam have been distorted, I want to know if the true teachings to beat their wives, if men really are allowed the stoning to death of women. if Islam really promotes is the veil. At the heart of my investigation it's the uniform of oppression. To some, for many millions of women, I want to find out why, of political liberation. it's become a powerful symbol

(Children sing Islamic song) of submission to Allah, The greatest appeal of Islam, is that it is totally without gender. like the Christian God. Allah is not a father in exactly the same way. Both women and men pray of bishops and priests. There's no hierarchy was a woman, In fact, the first convert to Islam Mohammed's first wife. you step outside the home But the moment of the street and the mosque, into the public space women are almost invisible. when I first went into a mosque. I was about nine MUTED MUSIC the first time, It was just like this, all the women up here, was being crowded up here, this huge space down there and you realising there was and only the men are allowed. on the main floor of a mosque before. I've never ever been the proper picture of how it looked. I was always up there, trying to get it was always meant to be. And this is...this is...it feels like about it afterwards I remember talking to my dad experience in the women's gallery, and saying it was quite a horrible not what I expected at all. it just didn't seem fair. Even then - I was nine years old - didn't have to wear the veil. But at least my generation It seemed archaic. are taking it by choice. Now, girls much younger than me Why is it so important to them now? 25 years ago, I started, you know, and going to the mosque. learning to read the Koran that you'd be in a situation Um, it never occurred to me immigrants like myself where second and third generation would be choosing to wear than their parents. a more strict form of the veil it wasn't in the Koran. My generation was told they have to wear it. But many now feel The first Friday of Ramadan, in London's East End Whitechapel Market of a large Muslim community. and the heart Here it struck me not wearing a veil. that I was practically the only one because you dress the way you do, Do you ever feel that, you get given grief on the street? (Others laugh) They stare so badly. What kind of people stare at you? That's horrible. Non-Muslim people. Any people. Exactly. Men look at us. Men look at us, in'it. and this but without the niqab. Some of our mums wear the thin hijab about you wearing the niqab? Right. How does your mum feel This is a good thing to wear it. Proud. (Girls speak Arabic) they are just schoolgirls. I find it all very strange, she feels naked without her hijab. But one of them said ARABIC MUSIC Feminists of my generation to dress as they please have always fought for the right that these girls but to me it's a shock should choose to look like this. born and brought up in this country I want to find out why young women in this way. are interpreting their religion Shaista, Sidra, Salwa and Umayma in Birmingham. are all students at university wearing it for not such a long time. Um, some of you...perhaps you've been Do you not find that, actually, more attention initially? in a weird way, it draws that's what you're judged on. What you see is like... don't judge you on your mind They don't see, you know... you may be, or personality. or, you know, how intellectual The hijab itself is a covering. from the verb 'to cover', Lexically, it comes it doesn't cover the mind. That's the beauty of it - to work on its own terms. It allows the mind So you're more than an image. I knew plenty of Muslim girls. When I was growing up, None of us ever wore the hijab. an interest in rediscovering this. I'm interested in why there's has progressed materially, I feel that this society yet spiritually they haven't. think everything is so superficial. And I think, looking around you, you all they lust for is power. The Western society, It's all, "Me, me, me, me." And it's just greediness. to reject Western culture. These friends all seem by its obsession with sex. They feel degraded I was practically the only one When I adopted it three years ago, among the young generation. and especially difficult for you One could argue it might make life after university. depending on what you choose to do example, if you're doing my job, There'd be certain jobs...for

a newsreader wearing the full niqab. I couldn't imagine you being

Where's the free society? A society that judges on merit, not on image? If I'm an individual who's doing it out of belief, out of choice, out of conviction, nobody should have a problem, as long as I'm not imposing it on others, as long as there's a balance. For them, this is not just a passing fad. Their dress may seem surprising but they're at that age when young women form their identities partly through deliberately shocking appearance. They seem to sort of feel no connection between the choices they'd made and the fact that so many women who are born Muslim have no choice and are forced to dress that way. It was like, it's not enough to live a Muslim life,

you have to show it. And I don't understand that. I don't see that that's essential. And I just thought that they did seem, somehow, to be disconnected from the country they lived in. It's hard for a woman like me to understand the appeal of so strict, so confining a version of Islam,

especially to young, educated British Muslims. It seemed as political as anything else, a strong statement of identity. IRANIAN MUSIC But then, the rise of the modern Islamist movement has always been political right from 1979 and the revolution in Iran. What happened here inspired fundamentalists across the world. This is where most of us first saw the veil as a powerful symbol on the streets. It's the right place to start asking questions. After 24 years under the rule of the ayatollahs, I wondered how this forbidding, politicised Islam was treating the mothers and daughters of the revolution. I have come to meet nine-year-old Farzaneh the evening before a very important day in her life as a Muslim girl. Tomorrow she will be officially initiated into the wearing of a hijab and from this day on, she will be obliged to cover up when in public. Very nice. TRANSLATION: Now you have to observe the basics of Islam and do whatever God would like you to do. Can you ask how she feels wearing it for the first time? (Others laugh) What will she be doing now she is nine that she didn't have to do before? (Speaks Farsi) TRANSLATION: Before the age of puberty, a girl is free to do as she wishes around men. Once she has come of age, she is obliged to observe all the religious duties expected at this age. She has to say her prayers, she has to fast and observe all the religious duties that are expected of her. Above all, she has to cover up. Some of Farzaneh's personal freedoms will be curtailed.

She will no longer be able to play in the streets but restricted to her apartment courtyard. Farzaneh will also not be allowed to go to the shop unaccompanied. This is to protect her honour as a young woman. (Speaks Farsi)

TRANSLATION: Actually, we like our hijab. We have chosen to be covered up and no-one is forcing us. Women who don't observe the full hijab are influenced by Western cultures. And if this hadn't influenced them, then I believe they too would wear the full hijab. PIPE MUSIC

The first time many people in the West will have seen the veil was in the form of the all-enveloping chador. It was, perhaps, the most potent symbol of the revolution in Iran. In fact, it symbolises defiance against the rule of the Shah who forcibly westernised Iran, banning veils, even forbidding pilgrims from going to Mecca. The British and the Americans kept him in power - the politics of oil. While the liberated middle classes chose to dress this way, to the majority of Iranians, Western culture was resented as the imposition of the oppressor. When the Revolution came, Ayatollah Khomeini said, "Islam lived amongst the people as if it was a stranger. "We have completely forgotten our identity." Reclaiming Iran, and crucially its women, from alien ideals lay at the heart of his Islamic republic. I wanted to know how women experience life under the chador now. In Tehran, the veil has shrunk to a discreet headscarf. Were these women still full of the religious fervour we saw on the streets all those years ago? QUIET MUSIC

Farzaneh's 'Takleaf' ceremony is unique to Iran. It's religious but it is organised by the state. And it is held in a school rather than a mosque.

CEREMONIAL MUSIC PLAYS

(Speaks Arabic) (Speaks Farsi) TRANSLATION: The major impact is that overnight these girls feel like grown-ups and this gives them self-confidence, self-worth and a sense of duty and responsibility to observe all the Islamic rituals expected of them. (Girls chant) This ritual seemed comparable to the Catholic ceremony of First Holy Communion, initiating children into a spiritual life. The difference is that little girls like Farzaneh will have to wear this for the rest of their lives. What struck me watching Farzaneh and her classmates was how eager they were, aged just nine, to grow up and, by taking the veil, take on the role of women. (Girls cheer) But on the other side of Tehran I met another family who questioned the state's imposition of religion on their lives. This is nine-year-old Pantea and her family. They are typical middle-class professionals working in computers and teaching. Unlike Farzaneh's family, their priorities are different. They want their daughters to have a broader education. (Speaks Farsi) TRANSLATION: I would like my daughters to be strong, to withstand difficulties and be strong enough to defend their own rights and not to be weak women. Pantea's granny and aunt live downstairs. And Granny remembers when things were different before the revolution. (Speaks Farsi) TRANSLATION: There was no hijab in my day. It just didn't exist. The state didn't want us to wear it. I would show my hair and used to send my daughters to school with their hair done really nicely with ribbons. In my time, we didn't have to wear hijab. If we wore it, the police would tear it off. Suddenly, Pantea's granny, embarrassed, remembers that she has forgotten to wear her hijab for the camera. (Speaks Farsi) (Others laugh) TRANSLATION: I personally think that a girl of nine is still a child and too young to wear a hijab. For example, up to the day before they turn nine girls are allowed to play with their male cousins and relatives. Then, suddenly, they realise that they can no longer play with them anymore and that they have to be all covered up in front of them. I don't think it's fair for them to be separated out even though all they do with each other is play some innocent childish games. (Speaks Farsi) TRANSLATION: Thanks to our parents, we were brought up the same as our brother. My parents saw us as equal. You see, there is a tendency, all over the world, to impose one's power and take advantage of the weak or the minority. But for a state to regulate such behaviour as conventional practice is quite unacceptable. This is brave talk in a theocratic state still effectively run by the ayatollahs. TRANSLATION: I have every respect for people who want to practise Islam. But I prefer to live in a state where the rule of law is in place because what we have doesn't empower me, it weakens me. Does the Koran explicitly require the wearing of the veil? The obvious answer is to go back to the original text because, to Muslims, it's the unaltered word of Allah and, ultimately, the source of all Islamic life. There's actually no reference to it as such in the Koran. There's two verses which talk specifically about the way that men as well as women should dress. It's, um, Surah 24, verses 13:31. (Reads) "Say to the believing men "that they should lower their gaze and guard their modesty. "That will make for greater purity for them. "And God is well-acquainted with all that they do.

"And say to the believing women that they should lower their gaze and guard their modesty, "that they should not display their beauty in ornaments "except what must ordinarily appear thereof. "That they should draw their veils over their bosoms and not display their beauty except to their husbands, their fathers." And it runs through a list of appropriate people. There are seven references to the word 'hijab', we found, but they're never meant in terms of a veil. The custom of veiling women didn't begin until about three generations after the Prophet's death when, ironically, Muslims began to copy the Christians of Byzantium and the Zoroastrians of Persia. And now, to veil or not to veil comes down to how you interpret the phrase, "not display your beauty." Liberals say it means covering your sexual parts, others say it means covering your hair, while fundamentalists, like the Saudi Wahhabis, believe face and hands should be hidden as well. The veil has more recently become a symbol of Islamic authenticity because of its relation to the Prophet. There's only one reference which is in connection with women and that's in connection with the Prophet's wives, when it talks about, if people want to address the wives, that they should address them from behind a partition. It's been suggested to me that's more to do with the time when the Prophet and his family were almost under siege from followers. It was a way of guarding their privacy. And the onus was on people coming to see them to be hidden rather than the women themselves to be hidden from them. So there appears to be no specific requirement in the Koran

to wear the veil but tell that to the mullahs. (Children chant) I've come to 'Zanan' magazine, which is this weekly women's magazine here in Tehran, to talk to one of the reporters, find out the kind of stories they do and get sense of what the issues are for women here in Tehran. I think it's their editorial meeting so I'll sit in on it. Established in 1991, 'Zanan' was the first magazine with an openly feminist agenda. For these women, the Islamic revolution was supposed to liberate, not suppress them. They articulate their demands through Islam and not through Western feminism, actively attempting to reinterpret the Koran and reclaim rights for women both at work and in the home. But by tackling issues like male domestic violence and honour killings they have got into trouble with the authorities. TRANSLATION: There have been problems at times but, in general, I would say we have had more problems with the conventional culture we live in as opposed to the problems with authorities and all the traditional perspectives of male-dominant society and the way it portrays women. So this prohibits us from talking about taboos. The editor has a commitment to support working mothers that would shame many Western companies. (Women laugh) TRANSLATION: I brought up my children in this very office. They did their homework around this desk. At times, they have fallen off the desks.

But I'm sure this has a big influence on their characters. Now they have grown up, they are confident,

self-sufficient and independent young women. This is all due to the fact that they grew up watching me as a career woman, taking life seriously and making it happen. Senior journalist Roya Karim Magd is shrewdly working the system, pressing for more rights for women. This, remember, is a country where a woman was stoned to death for adultery only last year. Today, Roya is covering a story about getting compensation for relatives of murder victims - blood money. She's off to see an ayatollah in Qum, Iran's holiest city. So you're all ready with your chador in your hand? Oh, yeah. Thank you. I decided to tag along. REFLECTIVE MUSIC As we came into the holy city of Qum, I felt a genuine chill in my heart. Every single woman was wearing the full chador, the tent-like veil. I wasn't going to be an exception. Tehran seemed so liberal in comparison. Every female here appeared a shadow. What must it be like to be a wife or daughter in this city of ayatollahs where these men make the codes that govern you life? In principle, the Koran rules that men and women are equal but so much doctrine seems to reflect male interests so that on the issue of blood money, families only receive compensation for a male victim. Roya is meeting Ayatollah Yusef Sanei, a prominent liberal thinker. She is hoping to get a sympathetic fatwa, a directive that will give women the same right as men. (Roya speaks Farsi) TRANSLATION: What made you start this debate on the subject of blood money for men and women? (Speaks Farsi) TRANSLATION: I personally have researched hundreds of subjects in the past. About 30, 35 years ago, I talked about women judges. I used to shout in the holy city of Qum that women can become judges and now I'm saying a woman can choose any kind of work and there is no religious boundary. Let's imagine that the father has killed his daughter. In such a case, there is no retaliation. He has to be imprisoned and pay blood money. So how would the ayatollah justify equal compensation for women? Any doctrine that is contrary to the spirit of Koran is not credible. Remember that there are plenty of verses in the Koran that refer to justice. And one of the bases of Islam is justice. So I have compared these doctrines with the Koran and realised that they are not based on justice and, therefore, I have rejected them. (Speaks Farsi) And he said that all the things between men and women are equal. It's very important that, for the first time, one of these ayatollahs can say this thing. He's an influential man? And little by little we can change many things in Iran. It's very good for us. It's very good for us. This was a scoop for Roya. And as Ayatollah Sanei was heading for the door, I wondered if he had equally progressive opinions on the age of girls' puberty. In Iran, it is the only country where at the age of nine a girl becomes a woman. And I wondered if the...the clerics are thinking whether that should change?

TRANSLATION: A girl's age of puberty is 13, not 9.

That's when a girl is obliged to say her prayers and fast. I've been saying this for 10 or 12 years. 70% of the girls start their periods and become women at the age of 13. There are exceptions that are dependent on environmental and geographical factors. If a girl gets her period at the age of 9 or 10 and her appearance changes, she becomes a woman. But in the majority of cases it's 13. This flexibility and frankness from a senior cleric was a surprise to me. It suggests that a return to the purer teachings of the Koran potentially allows for far more modern and egalitarian thought than you would guess from the Islamic fundamentalism that is so much talked about. (Women shout enthusiastically) Many Iranian women say they've found independence within Islam. They have got on with their lives. Whatever the Islamic requirements of the state, head scarves are no excuse for not keeping fit. But others are angry and impatient. Now there is evidence that a new generation is taking to the streets, burning their hijabs and chanting, "No Taliban in Tehran." FLAMES CRACKLE EDGY MIDDLE-EASTERN FOLK MUSIC (Crowd chants angrily)

And yet, in the very next country to Iran, the hijab is at the centre of an equally violent argument but for very different reasons - in fact, the exact opposite. In Turkey, women are also taking to the streets. The difference is these women are fighting for the right to wear the veil, not to burn it. I've always had this fascination with Turkey because it seems to be a country which did a kind of Islamic revolution in reverse. And since the '20s,

it's had this whole emphasis on separating Islam from the state. For 500 years, Istanbul was the heart of the Ottoman Empire. After its defeat in the First World War, Turkey's leaders decided that Islam was anti-modern and reactionary. In the Muslim world, there had been no period comparable to the English enlightenment two centuries earlier in which church and state were separated. But now, Turkey, alone in Islam, took that step under the leadership of Kemal Ataturk who pursued an aggressive policy of separating religion from government. He replaced Turkey's Arabic script with the Roman alphabet. He decreed that Turks should dress in Western clothing. He banned the hijab and the fez, and to set an example presented his own wife with her hair daringly exposed. But you don't have to be in Istanbul for long to realise that Islam is still planted firmly in the lives of ordinary people. It's Ramadan, and it seems the whole city is waiting for the muezzin call to end the fast. It's coming up to 4:40 and everyone's waiting for sunset. And everyone's just...waiting until the time to eat. Some people are buying it in advance, but people are just patiently waiting until that moment when they will all sit and eat together. MUEZZIN'S CALL RINGS OUT Here in the open air, some women choose to cover their heads, but if they were in any public building, as civil servants or students, the hijab would be forgiven. The state is terrified of the political symbolism of the veil. But for many girls brought up in traditional families the hijab is a required public display of their faith. MUEZZIN'S CALL CONTINUES I met up with Hatice, a medical student, and her friends, who had been banned from Istanbul University. They invited me to their flat to tell me what had happened to them. Hatice claimed that their fathers were told they'd lose their jobs if their daughters kept their scarves on in their ID photos.

They said, "If you don't do this in these photographs "we will take your fathers out of their jobs." Really? They threatened your fathers? They threatened all of us. One day, we saw a paper on the doors. We saw some papers. It's written that, "You mustn't come like that with a scarf. "If you come, we will give you punishments. "We will punish you." And the first punishment was a warning. They warned us. "You are behaving undignified." They said, "You are disturbing the other students."

Yes. They say, "You're terrorist. You are...bad students." One day they will see we are not so dangerous. But they were still seen as a threat and suspended from their studies. Hatice and her friends say they weren't interested in politics before the hijab ban. Now they find themselves drawn towards causes such as Palestine and Chechnya. Surely this is the very thing the Turkish Government feared. WOMEN CHATTER Coming away from meeting those girls, their families and they have really struggled, um, to kind of come to the big city and transform their lives by trying to become doctors or nurses or going to university. And it seems just particularly shocking that the state is going to such extremes to persecute them. MOODY MIDDLE-EASTERN MUSIC Secularisation may give us in the West the freedom to experiment and live independent lives. But when Western culture is imposed on Islamic societies, they can experience it as being as alien to their way of life as Islam would feel if it were imposed on Britain. The government's hijab ban was introduced in 1998 because Muslim practices had been creeping back into the workplace. People are now forbidden to pray at work. As a result, a lot of women, like the medical students, have lost their places at university, or their jobs, for defying this ban. Finding herself in this position, Tuba Akyuz set up a support organisation to help other women. This tells the whole story. And I want to show you that - this is a photograph from 1995, those days. We graduated from our schools. Then this ban made us... so we became so. You look like militants. Yeah. These people are angry. Does it create a kind of a political activism

in women who are being marginalised this way? Yeah. I mean, this is very simple. If you force someone, if you suppress someone, you make her marginalised. It doesn't hurt anyone, but they say that by staying there with your hijab you are imposing your world view. But you - unhijabed women - you also have a world view and you're also imposing it to me. They are claiming that you are dividing the society by your hijabs. But it wasn't so. And I hope they can understand this, before costing so many people's lives. This is a really human rights issue. Turkey is in a dilemma. It is a secular democracy, but by wearing the hijab, many women are challenging the secular state. Others, also good Muslims, say it's perfectly possible to separate religion and the state. In fact, it's more important now than ever. I'm going out to meet a journalist who stood in the recent elections on a very pro-secular ticket. She's campaigned a great deal on the importance of keeping things like this hijab ban. And she's the person I want to ask about the 'they'. I mean, who are these people who seem so afraid of the hijab? What is it about the state that feels so under threat from Islam when ordinary Turkish people seem to have no fear and no problem at all? If you ask my personal idea - do I like the headscarf? And as a feminist, um, I will say no. I don't like it.

And why? Because I think it's against the freedom of the body. The hijab somehow...is...is a problem and I'm wondering why... ..why that should matter? Actually, you know, the hijab is not the biggest problem, of course. I think it's the minor problem of a bigger problem, which is how do we, er... put Islam and democracy together? Because, er, as you know, maybe better than me, Islam is a...is a religion which is organising your daily life. You cannot... In a Muslim country you cannot have democracy if you don't...don't have secularism. Because if Islam is going to rule our daily lives, then you cannot have democracy. You're saying it's impossible to have an Islamic state that is democratic? I want to live with the European standards of democracy in my country, which I think these are the highest standards of democracy. Now, unfortunately my country has become a test area for Islamic democracy. And I don't feel very happy about it. Zeynep, herself a Muslim, fears men, mullahs, are lurking behind the hijab issue. She fears an Iranian-style reintegration of religion with the state. But ironically, by refusing to tolerate Islamic practices, her party is going against the will of the majority. It is not democratic. The trouble is that the hijab is used as a symbol by politicians and revolutionary movements for their own purposes. It can be interpreted as progressive or as reactionary. In the recent elections, the overtly Islamic AK Party won power and, of course, on their agenda is the right for women to wear the hijab. But the first thing that strikes you when you meet their spokeswoman is that she chooses not to wear the hijab. Since we've been in Istanbul, we've met a lot of women who've lost their jobs or lost their place at college or university because they want to wear the hijab and they've been told they're not allowed to. Will your party have any plans to change that?

(Speaks Turkish) TRANSLATION: When the state is offering a service to the public, it cannot discriminate between its citizens on grounds of language, sex, religion or race. It wouldn't be fair. And our constitution provides free education for everyone, so it would be a typical human rights violation not to allow students to attend school because of this problem. Do you think it would be hard to change the way so many state institutions at the moment refuse to allow women these freedoms? Is that something difficult to change? TRANSLATION: National consensus is very important on this issue.

According to two surveys, between 60% and 70% of women in Turkey cover their heads in line with their beliefs. This is too big a percentage to ignore. You cannot conduct politics as if women do not exist. TRAM BELL CLANGS

The test for Nimet Gubukay's AK Party, now in government, is whether they will tolerate the secular as well as the Islamic. Up to now, the modern Turkish state has been terrified of the political symbolism of the veil

because they fear religious fundamentalism taking over Turkey. The irony is that it's the secular state that has come to be seen as oppressive, denying religious freedom. (Crowd chants)

MAN ULULATES MELODICALLY OVER BRISTLING PERCUSSION If Islam is going to meet the challenge of peaceful coexistence with other cultures, other religions, then this is where it faces one of its most severe tests. Malaysia's population is a little over 50% Muslim. It's a hotchpotch of ethnic and religious minorities - Chinese, Hindu and Christian. Kuala Lumpur is a noisy, hedonistic city - not a mullah in sight.

TECHNO MUSIC BLARES

(Shouting) I think this club is quite a seriously popular one. On the other side there, there's a lot of wrangling going on over the guest list.

And above the entrance as well, the big 'no drugs' warning. I think I'm hideously overdressed on this occasion.

And my taxi driver on the way here said, "Oh, you see these girls? "They wear the hijabs to the office, "but you should see what they're wearing or they're not wearing "when they get out of my taxi going into the clubs."

Malaysia's governing party is Muslim and, though it's widely seen as corrupt by the voters, it runs a genuinely secular multicultural society. But I'm heading upriver to the north of the Malay peninsula and a world away from the capital. HAUNTING FLUTE PLAYS OVER EDGY PERCUSSION

This is Kelantan, the heartland of an Islamic fundamentalist party that is now the official opposition. The Parti Islam SeMalaysia, PAS for short, has been in power here on and off for 30 years. From the moment you arrive here, there is no mistaking that you are now entering a re-Islamicised zone.

This billboard I noticed the other day. At first I thought it was a specially taken photo - the mother and daughter wearing hijabs. Then I realised, going closer in daylight, that someone has carefully painted on the hijabs. They've even chosen different colours for the mother and daughter and painted on shadows, so from the distance it just looks real.

At first glance, just a very modern supermarket. But one of the laws that PAS has brought in is separate queuing for men and women. And they've got different aisles - five for women and, what, three for men. I was wondering what, um... when couples come shopping together, which aisle...aisle they choose. There are women in the men's aisle and there are definitely men in the women's aisle. So I think people here just seem to be ignoring it. CHIMES RING MELODICALLY OVER LAIDBACK PERCUSSION It's eerie. Almost unique in South-East Asia, here there's no karaoke, no public entertainment. Every woman I see is wearing the hijab. It's compulsory for Muslims. This is the rule of PAS - a party led by a man who says women in skimpy clothes are the main cause of social ills and decadence, a man who wishes to introduce the stricter form of the sharia law. The women I've met knuckle under this hijab law but Nik Aziz tries to pass it off as no big deal. It seems to me that women here all choose to wear the hijab anyway. I'm just interested as to why you feel there's a necessity to legislate if most people, without any compulsion - which is surely the way of Allah, without compulsion - have chosen to live that way? (Speaks Malaysian language) TRANSLATION: We haven't enforced it. We've only implemented the minor regulation or by-law. Even if we enforce it, not everyone would listen. Not all human beings listen to good advice. There are some who are resistant and only want to listen to evil. That is why we prefer to use advice.

There is a concern that you see women as being...

..morally weaker, and, in a sense, the women are responsible for men's behaviour. Everything which could lead to adultery has to be banned. That's why we close down discos and nightclubs, to curb the possibility of committing adultery, abandoned babies and rapes. I consider a woman's voice as part of her aura and her clothing as well. Women's clothing, to me, is very important because a woman who is wearing the hijab won't attract men's attention. But even I, myself, as a man, can get easily aroused and lust after women without hijab. If a man sees a woman who exposes her body, it is very hard for him to contain himself. That's why we have banned women from singing and wearing clothing that exposes the body. In nightclubs there is singing, men can easily mix with the women, take drugs, hugging each other, rapes. Could you tell me - is this a good place or what? His voice is gentle, his words shocking. The problem, he believes, is women's sexuality and men's lack of self-control. And while Nik Aziz struck me as devout, he clearly believes people can't be trusted to make their own moral choices. This market is named after Khadijah, the Prophet's first wife, who was a successful businesswoman, as are these women of Kelantan. In fact, 80% of the businesses in Kelantan are run by women. But the Islamist rule of PAS is beginning to make life difficult. Norizan Yusoff's hotel business was thriving, but in September last year the PAS party put a ban on all live music and even some traditional dances. I'm trying to understand how PAS party's ban on certain kinds of entertainment like this traditional dance... Has it affected you and your business at all? Actually, I am not happy for this ban on entertainment. I'm not happy for my...for my business especially, my hotel. I'm not happy for this rule of the party...the PAS party. Brave of Norizan to say that in public. But she herself is a devout Muslim and her family have never questioned their faith. Like most people in Kelantan, it's part of their daily life. They don't need the draconian enforcement of the PAS party. MAN SINGS PRAYER

So why do people vote for this party?

Poverty is only part of the story. Nik Aziz's Islamic revivalism is attractive because it's seen as uncorrupt. In Kelantan, as in so many other places across the world, radical Islam has taken the place of Marxism. But there is real opposition to the fundamentalists

and it comes from fellow Muslims. Sisters in Islam are a pressure group

who combine the vigour of Western feminism with practical Malay Islam. They distribute simple leaflets to ordinary women on what Islam says about polygamy or domestic violence, complete with quotes from the Koran and phone numbers for the police. I went to meet Zainah Anwar, one of the founding members - another devout Muslim woman who says she won't allow her religion to be hijacked. The Islam that I grew up with is no longer here. Oh, really? (Laughs) You know? Yeah, because of the discrimination that women suffer. Um, you know, problems in getting a divorce, getting maintenance, the issue of polygamy, domestic violence. Mostly, when they go to seek for redress to their grievances they are told that this is Islam. But when we went back and read the verses in the Koran,

it was very, very clear that the Koran talks about justice, about equality, about compassion in the relationship between men and women. I cannot accept an Islam that is unjust. You said you grew up with a very progressive Islam and you feel that's disappeared. How has that happened?

If you look at pictures of Muslim women in party politics in the 1950s, 1960s, you just see black hair everywhere. No-one was in a hijab. But all this became issues with, you know, Islamic revivalism that engulfed the country, starting from the '70s. Suddenly you're told that as a woman you need to cover up. Um, you're told that, you know, it's dangerous to mix with non-Muslims, you know, because they're infidels who might lead you astray. And the idea that my mother who, you know, did not wear the hijab is burning in hell because she never covered her head is something that I just cannot accept. Since last year, Sisters in Islam have a real fight on their hands. The PAS party are trying to get the strict sharia penal code onto the statute book, including the amputation of hands and feet for theft and stoning to death for adultery. Laws and policies are being made in the name of Islam, you know, that are regressive. PAS are taking away, um, rights that have been granted to women in the past. These laws are basically non-enforceable, you know, or, if they are enforced, they will violate the federal constitution in terms of fundamental liberties and in terms of equality before the law. Because who are being targeted? You know, it's these kind of less-privileged, less-empowered women who are being targeted under these laws. Leaving Malaysia, it seemed that strong Muslim women like Zainah Anwar were the country's best chance of not succumbing to the fundamentalists. Women are drawn to Islam because it gives them a strong sense of identity and enriches them spiritually in a material world. It's an identity Islamists define as inherently political. But some Muslim women are prepared to challenge that, to say that there is a way of reconciling Islam with modernity and the West.

And to do that, they're brave enough to take on the mullahs. STIRRING MUSIC LIVELY MIDDLE-EASTERN MUSIC Supertext Captions by the Australian Caption Centre www.auscap.com.au