Fashion and faith in Indonesian magazine - Australia Network's Newsline

Uploaded by australianetworknews on 05.12.2010

HELEN BROWN, INDONESIA CORRESPONDENT: Indonesia lays claim to being one of the most diverse
and tolerant Muslim nations on the planet where people can adhere to their faith but
still express their individuality. And now a new magazine is testing that ground.
LIANA ROSNITA REDWAN-BEER, EDITOR AND PUBLISHER: For women who want it all because we've got
lifestyle topics, spiritual topics. We also have career topics alongside fashion spreads.
HELEN BROWN: Liana Rosnita Redwan-Beer is typical of what's known as the modern Muslim
She's educated, well travelled and has a solid career. She speaks English and pores over
fashion magazines.
But the Singaporean couldn't find a publication that reflected her Muslim sensibilities, especially
when it came to clothes. And so she started Aquila, a magazine for women just like her
and one that she thinks will also appeal to many Western women as well.
LIANA ROSNITA REDWAN-BEER: The Muslims today are very much like them. Muslims today want
the same nice things, are curious to find out more about other cultures, other people
and other countries and places.
Muslims today are also very interesting as well as interested in others and to know that
Islam is a religion of peace.
HELEN BROWN: Muslim scholar Azyumardi Azra hadn't seen the magazine until we showed him
and he says he welcomes it as it shows another side to those who follow Islam.
But professor Azra also wasn't surprised someone came up with the idea as a growing middle
class of Muslims, particularly in Indonesia, are looking for ways to be modern but hold
on to their faith.
PROFESSOR AZYUMARDI AZRA, ISLAMIC STATE UNIVERSITY: This magazine for Muslim women is again part
and parcel of a Muslim middle class that gained momentum since second half of the 1980s when
new Muslim graduates came from universities.
HELEN BROWN: Here in this back room in a house in Jakarta the fashion shoot is under way.
But of course it's anything but a normal fashion shoot. It's about a woman who wears a hijab
and is fashionable, a hijabista. And she's going on a holiday.
The publisher and editor bases herself in Jakarta where she hopes a strong fashion scene
and rising middle class will warm to her glossy magazine.
She uses international designers and has given a local stylist the task of creating her vision.
HELEN BROWN: What would normally happen? What is usually more traditional?
NAVI, STYLIST: The magazine always use some ethnics kind of thing, like traditional clothes.
But now it's different because more colourful, more prints, more tunics, kind of thing.
HELEN BROWN: Is it fun?
NAVI STYLIST: Yeah, of course. But it's kind of hard because we have to mix and match the
LIANA ROSNITA REDWAN-BEER: For example this cover from our first issue, that received
quite a lot of questions. Why isn't the model covered on her neck? And why are her arms
exposed this way through the transparent material?
But the next one, this one no-one complained about that because she's well covered.
HELEN BROWN: The magazine is sold in Malaysia, Singapore, Indonesia and Brunei, areas that
have their own take on what is correct and what is not.
And while it's the fashion that gathers the most attention the magazine also deals with
some contentious and serious subjects.
It's run an article that asks why some Islamic women feel the need to use fake hymens to
prove their virginity. It talks about sex and marriage and subjects that many think
would be taboo to publicly discuss in the Muslim world.
LIANA ROSNITA REDWAN-BEER: We have heard of stories or we have personally met women who
are the subsequent wives of their husbands, who are actually not well looked after, who
are not well supported and neither are their kids.
Therefore we decided to cover this topic once and for all.
AZYUMARDI AZRA: Yeah, yeah, it's a modern idea. I think in general there is no discussion,
there's no objection among Muslim in general yeah, mainstream Muslim of course.
But of course in any society, in any community, in any group of (inaudible), there is always
you know people who have a very literal understanding of religion.
HELEN BROWN: The magazine's work is done from a house in Jakarta. The address is kept secret
to safeguard staff from those who want to take their objections to the magazine too
And the magazine has its own resident religious adviser to look at the subject matter and
how it relates to Islamic teachings.
LIANA ROSNITA REDWAN-BEER: Aquila is not perfect but it's a good start.
HELEN BROWN: The bi-monthly magazine is only around a year old and sells just 12,000 copies.
But the publisher thinks she's in the right space and time, placed in a region with 255
million Muslims and a growing middle class of successful women who are looking for something
just for them.