Friday, July 27, 2007

UUM dress code: response from a reader

I got this response from our of our readers in response to Tony's post on the UUM dress code. While his reply is not strictly education related, I thought that his remarks about the Outward Bound School (OBS) deserved to be heard given that many of young people attend OBS. (I was one of those and I found that the OBS camp was a good place to mix around with other kids from all races and backgrounds)

Dear Kian Ming,

I read you most recent blog on the UUM dress code issue. I cannot agree more with the fact that the Talibanisation of the nation is coming through fast and furious.

Your blog reminded me of a recent first hand experience I had with dress code. I was signed up for an outdoor course in our very own Outward Bound School (OBS) in Lumut about 2 months ago. One day we were told by the Malay instructor that we were to show up in our "wet wear" for a kayaking event. So what in the world would you think " wet wear" is?

I trooped out in a a swimming trunk with a T shirt over. Wet wear enough right? Apparently not. I was rebuked and rudely told off by the instructor. "Mana seluar kamu? Pergi tukar sekarang juga!"

When I asked him what was the reason why what I was wearing wasn't considered wet wear (obviously this person hasn't seen the Olympics swimming event" on TV, probably too engrossed with the jungle in OBS). He again told me off "Jangan cakap banyak, kamu tukar saja, kalau tidak, kamu jangan pergi".

On any normal day, had it happened in Singapore or anywhere outside Malaysia, I would have lodged a police report or gone to the press with my sorry. But sadly I knew then that it was a futile effort, least not in my beloved Malaysia. Like I said, I knew there and then that the Talibanisation of Malaysia is now almost complete. There's no point fighting a lost cause. Malaysia must surely be an Islamic state. Secular? Sure, if only in our dreams.

Ironically I was looking at some old pictures that OBS had displayed. Circa 1970s. The participants then went for their kayaking event decked in only swimming trunks, exposing their brown tan bodies for all to see. No complaints then, even though I believe by then Islam was already in Malaysia for more than 500 years.


Anonymous said...

I went to OBS Lumut about 8 years ago. No problems there. We had a jolly time.

Anonymous said...

Overzealous people are everywhere nowadays and we are expected to follow their so called morally-correct dress code!! Utter nonsense!

sankochan said...

maybe the instructor is shy and doesnt wanna other men's flesh?? @_@

Anonymous said...

I have been to OBS 6 years ago. I believe that your case has nothing to do with the one Tony was talking about.

When you are in OBS, although it was being paid for, you are expected to be have dicipline and to some extent, do as you are told. After all, you go there for training, not vacation.

Also, your instructor might have good reasons to ask you to wear a more appropriate protective gear. For example, by wearing an additional layer of shorts above your swimming trunks may prevent slimmy jellyfish from giving a good sting to your private parts? Swimming trunks material may be a bit thin sometimes.

Whatever the reason is, good or bad... you should follow. Else, go to Club Med instead of OBS.

John Lee said...


There has to be a reason for every rule. I was in the Scouts, and every thing we did, difficult as it was, had a reason behind it. Sometimes cultural sensitivities were the reason (but even then, we were allowed to wear shorts when we went swimming, despite our district chief apparently being famous for his conservatism), yes.

Without further information, it's difficult to pass judgment on what happened at the OBS in question (and I'm not sure that hyperbole about "lodging a police report" is particularly helpful - it is certainly not what you would do in any country, since generally telling someone else what to wear is not considered a criminal offense).

There is, though, merit in the suggestion that our educational institutions are being Talibanised. I personally have never attended an OBS, but I know it is supposed to be an excellent experience, and I am sad that it seems likely that it too is not escaping the ravages of fundamentalism.

Anonymous said...

Hey, I went to OBS in the late 70s, everything was fine then. No problems. Enjoyed ourselves.

We were told that in a previous batch of all female trainees, there were a couple of trainees who were all covered up when they turned up for the course and they refused to take them off and they were very shy.

The instructors were in a dilemma and finally one muslim instructor spoke to them and told them in a nice way that to be able to participate effectively together with the other participants, they had to dress appropriately for the occassion. "You muslim, I muslim too", he was reported to have told them. Anyway the girls finally agreed to take their heavy dressings off and put on casual sports attire. After all it was an all girls course except for the instructors. They did very well and were much more extrovert at the end. Whether they reverted to their former dressings I don't know.

And there were courses specially reserved for Royal Military College students. Those boys got it rough as the instructors were army chaps who ran the courses the military way. Trainees were punched, kicked and openly abused but they took it all without complains. Instructions were obeyed without questions. The regular instructors were shocked but learnt to accept it everytime the RMC boys came.

Then there was a Pak Mat in charge of the mess hall and our food. A bit coocoo at times but OK generally. He serves lousy food, plenty of watered down fish curry all the time. No wonder we all lost weight. And we enthusiastically supplemented our diets by buying alot of goodies when we went on our many expeditions. I was introduced to and got hooked on Kampong Koh Chilli Sauce since then.

Then there was a Army officer who stood in as an additional instructor. He volunteered actually. Why? Well he was after the warden's secretary one Cik Aini.

One night there was a slight problem and the warden asked us all to assemble in the mess hall. And he asked angrily in a loud voice "Mana Duty instructor"?

And our Pak Mat innocently and simple-mindedly replied in an equally loud voice "Dia keluar dengan Cik Aini" and the whole hall went bursting out in laughter!!! Instructor AWOL!! Went dating!! Don't know whether they got married finally.

But in kayaking he took us as far south as the mouth of the Perak river. The sea there was a bit rough but we enjoyed it and we practised making a raft with our kayaks. Enjoyed it.

At nights, we made our own "beer" and the instructors came searching for the brew. All they got was our milk and seven up, shaken not stirred. With our compliments.

And as for hill 1150 on Pangkor island, the instructors are still amazed and puzzled as to how my watch got a bit out of the way but still managed to reach the top, climbing up a steep rock face. We must be the only watch to do so till today if they are still climbing up that one. We got good reports for our efforts.

And who can forget the resident cobra on the way down the hill on the other side waiting for us trainees coming down. Sheesh. I have heard of elephants with grudges but this snake must have got a super duper bad grudge against OBS trainees. Anyway no one got bitten as far as I know but meet it some did. Some trainees just ran all the way down non stop.

And we had a "court martial" too for mutiny when the members of one watch quarreled and split into two during their 3 days jungle expedition, each sub group going its own way and coming back seperately. Needless to say they all got very bad reprimands and bad reports to their sponsors for not being able to resolve problems and functioning as a team.

And also a commision of enquiry as to how a couple of chaps who didn't know how to turn their dinghies around and headed straight for the shores of Pangkor Island. And when they finally headed back it was low tide and in their desperation to get ashore they collided their boats with considerable damage.

Don't know whether Alan is still around but he was a dedicated instructor. Bugger made me look down the steep cliff before he made me abseil down. Man did I shiver, then he made me do it again. He was ably assisted by a chap we all called "Sammy Davis" for obvious reasons.

Ah, the good old OBS days.

Don't know what its like now in OBS. Very low profile course now. Too many "motivtional camps" and what have wees.

H said...

Making a mountain out of a molehill! No offense, but I think the person was upset, being scold like that (I think its normal at a camp settg), now he is just passin the anger on religion, how typical
it hurt, yes, just let it go, nothin can be gain from rage

H said...

Its also funny bcos he is the only one that dont have a clue what the instructer meant by wet wear. kan dah kena marah

p.s. kpd yg berkenaan, stop leavin racist comments in my blog, u gain nothin from it, just waistg yr time and exaggerate the shallowness of yr mind

Anonymous said...

much ado about nothing....

Anonymous said...

The instructor was right in telling him to wear a wet wear. What is the big fuss?

I graduated from OBS more than 10 years ago. Standard Course, 25 days. No outside contact and do what I was told. I learned so much and I realised that I discovered my potential.

I will recommend OBS to everyone.

The Contrarian said...

HI... can u help me with this issue !! am with a private university and they have beeen pinpointing and being too particular about our dressing and even force us to wear a tag !!! Is there any law saying that if i don dress according to standard i can be kicked out, i am a guy and feel that our basic human right have been violated !! They even stop me from entering because i lost my string but i have a student ID is there anything i can do to rebuke the actions??? Legal help plz appreciated!!! email me at

Kevin Teoh said...

As a former member of the support staff at OBS over the last couple of years and i would like to point out that participants are encourageed to not participate in water activities in their 'speedos' for reasons other than religion or culture.

As one person commented earlier, it has to do with safety, not only from the elements in the water, but also from the sun.

Hope this clarifies the issue. At OBS safety of the participant is paramount.