“Perempuan Berkalung Sorban” Controversy

Since the first time i watched “Perempuan Berkalung Sorban”, i realized that it was a very brave movie. It raised a very sensitive issue that in my opinion, really did (or still does) happen in reality that need to be discussed, not to be supressed. This movie is based on a novel by Abidah El Khaleiqy with the same title, “Perempuan Berkalung Sorban” (in English, more or less literary means a woman with sorban scarf). However, i’m not gonna make a review about the novel, since i haven’t read it. I’m just speaking about the movie directed by Hanung Bramantyo.

Sorban is actually a scarf, usually worn by moslem men when they are going to mosque for praying. So a woman with sorban, for me, it’s a kind of symbol of a woman who has a spirit and bravery like a man and believes that women have the same rights as men to improve and actualize themselves.

This movie tells a story about a Kyai’s daughter. Kyai is a realigous leader among (Indonesian) moslem, usually area based and the leader of a pesantren or an islamic boarding school (islamic study as the focus of study). So Kyai is a title that probably as high as a bishop in christian. This Kyai’s daughter, annisa, hadbeen a very critic person since she was a kid. She had a more moderate thinking than other girls in pesantren. She wanted to have a high education, go to university in a bigger city or even go to cairo, just like the love of her life, khudori. But her parents didn’t let her go. They worried because she’s still single. Letting her go out of town on her own would be unsafe and could raise a bad rumour which was a very unlikely thing for a Kyai’s daughter. So her parents arranged her marriage to a son of another Kyai. Since khudori had left years of years with a very poor corespondence, annisa agreed to marry. Years had gone, annisa found her self trapped in a very misarable marriage. Her husband was a real jerk. He abused her, raped her, and torturing her heart by marrying another woman who was suddenly knocked on annisa’s door with a baby ready to be born in her swallow belly. Left alone the dream of university, annisa felt like hell in her marriage, but she couldn’t tell anyone. She thought her parents would not let her asked for divorce to her husband. Until one day, khudari came back from cairo. Annisa finally had someone to talk to, again. Annisa was so desperate, khudori who was still in love with her wanted to help her. But annisa’s husband thought khudori and his wife did an affair. He provoke all people in pesantren to punish them both with islamic way. This incident had caused annisa’s father died, annisa was divorced and she was out of pesantren. She went to uni and left khudori. She felt guilty of everything happened to her family. But khudori fought for his love.

I’m not gonna tell the whole story. What i wanna tell is about the controversy about this movie. Many moslem people think the movie doesn’t reflect the real pesantren life, the real kyai’s family ‘s life, the real moslem people’s lives. Some people even campaign for boicoting this movie. I don’t think that’s necessary. No matter what, i think we still have to give some respect for other people’s hard works. And i don’t think this movie tells lies. I think almost eveything that’s shown in the movie really did happen in some pesantren and some kyai’s family’s life. For domestic abuse issue, it really does happen to many indonesian woman nowadays. I’ve never get an education from pesantren, but that kind of life is pretty familiar for me. I can say that my family is quite conservative. Some of my cousins get their education from pesantren, my late grandfathers were respectable moslem leaders in their village, one of them ran a pesantren many years a go, and we are raised and surrounded by conservative islamic teachings. Thankfully my parents decided to live and raise their children in jakarta, so we are as the children can have wider perspective of life.

about few days ago, I watched a debate between the director of the movie and the chief imam of great mosque istiqlal in one of tv channel. It was actually quite hillarious since the imam critisized the movie without having seen the movie. He always said “people say that this movie bla bla bla” or “my most trusted people said that this movie bla bla bla.” Hello? I wonder why he’s not seeing the movie himself? That’s not a right thing, to critisize someone’s work publicly only based on assumption and based on what people have said not by his own eye witnessed. He said that (people said that) there’s a scene where annisa was not allowed to go to university by his father. He said people would think that islam doesn’t allow girls to gain higher education. IF ONLY he had seen the movie, he would’ve understood that annisa’s father didn’t allow her to go to university on her own, not didn’t allow her to get higher education. She’s allowed to continue her education after she’s married. By doing so, her parents thought they would not have anything to worry at all: annisa would be safe, she wouldn’t be alone in a far away from home, and people wouldn’t raise bad prejudices on her.

One more time, if only he had watched the movie, he would’ve critisized better. And the movie director might have taken the critics with open hands and minds. For me, there’s only one big dangerous about the movie: if it is watched by non-moslem people, who don’t know anything at all about islamic and indonesian culture and the blend of both cultures and also narrow minded people, they would think that islam is a very unfair religion for women and islam is a very strict and rough religion,,,which is of course not!

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6 thoughts on ““Perempuan Berkalung Sorban” Controversy

  1. I haven’t watch the movie myself. But I watch the interview with Hanung and the Iman of Istiqlal. It was hilarious ^_^.

    Anyway, Hanung stated that this movie attack on the culture, how the moslem use Islam to justify their act. But actually I was wondering how many people really get the message.

  2. this is very good opinion,and i totally agree wit u.. i already watched this movie and this movie for me hve the best result to open people mind bout islam..this movie also not only to tell us about islam but also gain us about the life freedom. like wat u say..the one big dangerous is the misunderstanding bout this movie for the non moslem if them not really no the islamic culture and indonesia culture..personally after watched this movie i felt that as a women we dun need to depend towards men to survive in our life like wat nisa said…..

  3. at last, i hv found one good review about this movie.. i didnt live in indonesia, but from where i live, the guys still thought that house chores like dishwashing is for women only, that when a guy do so, its degrade them as men.

    the trailer is quit controversial itself. perhaps, it boils their anger by only watching the trailer. and maybe, they are as same as the one portrayed in the movie, where modern stuff bring bad influences, which then lead them to condemn without watching the movie 🙂

    in this border less world, by the end of the movie, they should give fact or translation about stoning, women freedom and etc to guide non-Muslim for better understanding..

  4. i watched the movie on television by coincidence. i didn’t want to watch it when it first launched, cause i’m afraid. there were lots more of hanung’s bad movies rather than good ones :p

    but yeah, i was surprised. it really wasn’t bad.

    and i think those shallow minded protests were totally out of context. i remember they were saying that nowadays pesantren is modern and doesn’t treat women like they were in the movie. but for god sake, the story took place 13 years ago in a small village! in my opinion, the movie could even be the story about a struggle to create the so called modern pesantren.

    the movie surely opens the viewer’s eyes that there are cases where moslem women were treated unjust. to be fair, even though i know islam is a religion that suggests to treat women with noble, we must realized that moslems are just like every other human in the world. we are full of mistakes.

  5. Hello there..

    Just read your review on the movie. I just watched this movie and I thought it was really good and really eye opening. From the start of the movie, looking at how differently Anissa and her brothers were treated… how the boy was chosen over her as the class monitor, how she had to marry someone because her dad wants to further the progress of the pesantren. How her ABUSIVE (I was so mad when she was living with her first) husband, and what I like about this movie, they show the contrast after she got divorced by the first husband.

    Thinking that this is happening or can happen not only indonesia, but also to the rest of the world, its just unbearable thinking that women are oppresed like what was being shown in the movie, especially in the muslim world, men are using the excuse of women being muslim to oppress them, i do understand that this world is such a dangerous place for us, but that is both to women AND also to men.

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