In Malaysia, which is predominantly Muslim, some women wear the hijab, a head scarf that shows the face but covers the hair, ears and neck. And some do not. A new documentary, “Siapa Aku?” or “Who Am I?” by Norhayati Kaprawi, a young Muslim woman, explores the reasons why. “I am passionate about women’s issues,” says Ms. Norhayati, who herself once wore the hijab but no longer does. Her first documentary, “Mencari Kartika” (“In Search of Kartika”), told the story of Kartika Shukarno, a young Malaysian Muslim woman sentenced by a religious court to six strokes of the cane and a fine for drinking beer in a hotel bar. A day before the caning was due to be carried out last April, the sentence was commuted to community service.
In her new documentary, Ms. Norhayati interviews Muslim women — young and old, urban and rural — in Malaysia, as well as religious scholars and celebrities in Kuala Lumpur and Indonesia about the hijab, also called the tudung.
The pressure to wear one is a dominant theme: “I think this conformity is the most dominating factor on why women in Malaysia wear a tudung,” Shamsul Amri Bahruddin, director of the Institute of Ethnic Studies at the National University of Malaysia, tells Ms. Norhhayati, adding that those who don’t can expect to hear from the lady next door every day, saying “you will go to hell or your hair will be burnt in hell.” Often, he adds, the women don’t understand the Quranic verses surrounding the reason for the hijab.