Pink is for tween Muslimahs

Update: An extended version of this post can be found at Muslimah Media Watch

It had to happen sooner or later. With Barbie and now Hannah Montana merchandise dominating the tween to early teenage market in Malaysia, products for young Muslim women in hijab are starting to appear, particularly on the bookshelves. And they look very pink.

Sayalah Puteri Raja (I'm the princess here!)

There are also whiffs of collusion with the Disney conglomerate’s marketing strategies; princesses sell. Now, I’m not the only one who thinks that princesses make one of the worst kind of role models. They’re expected to be beautiful, rescued by Prince Charming, and either acquire or inherit wealth and royal status patrilineally. But then, stories of princesses and other beautiful heroines make an obvious progression towards the Malay novel and its main theme: romance. The contemporary romance novel is pretty much the only form of Malay fiction writing popular today. So pervasive is the Malay romance novel that it’s even taught in schools as ‘Malay literature’.

I’m assuming that this is part of the mainstreaming of ‘Islamic culture’ to reach out to younger Muslim-Malaysians. It’s saying that you can be hip and with the times and still be a good Muslim. But here, to be hip is to be a sad carbon-copy of Disney princesses with blue eyes and fair-skin and colluder of Western gender stereotypes.

Other examples of ‘pink and feminine’ novels for Muslim young women:

Diari Aneesa (Aneesa's Diary)
Kotak Rahsia Ismah (Ismah's Secret Box)
40 Lukisan Hati (40 Drawings of the Heart)
Thank you, Puteriku (Thank you, My Princess)
Dia Ataupun Dia? (Her or Her?)
Dia Ataupun Dia? (Her or Her?)
Balqis dan Pukauan Si Jelita (Balqis and the Spell of the Beautiful One)
Balqis dan Pukauan Si Jelita (Balqis and the Spell of the Beautiful One)

By Angry Malay Woman

I like plants.


  1. OK, I gotta admit, the Balqis one has me intrigued. Might be the cheesy 2-bit images on the cover, though.

    I’m writing a princess story, solely to buck the princess cliches. Wanna be my beta reader?

  2. Don’t know whether it’s related to the ‘princess wannabe’, but I recently saw a hijab with kitty ears on a five year old in Kalimantan. She did look very adorable. 🙂

  3. Jha,

    You want me to read Balqis for you? haha! Alright I’ll do it! Just give me two weeks or so.


    Hhmm, the first case of zoomorphic hijab I’ve ever heard of. I’ve seen umbrellas with ears – though they’re not cute.

  4. The only thing I thought of when hijab with kitten ears was mentioned was هيو الهافنر, but that would be bunnies!

    I am shocked by this tawdry meeting of popular Islam and Disney commercialism. I suppose Disney has become adept at forming the minds of young boys and girls. It is a sad aspiration to be a princess, all have already failed to passage a royal womb. The second chance is princely marriage, yet no one points out that neither princes nor marriage are as painted in romance. I can imagine that Muslim parents, knowing themselves imperfect in the faith, want to give their children more. Yet surely, borrowing from this misleading myth is not the way to do it. Putting a hijab on a Disney Princess doesn’t suddenly make her a role model for young muslimat, but degrades the veil to yet another fashion accessory.

  5. Cycads: Sure!

    I just had another look at the cover. She’s wearing PINK and A TUDUNG and SHE HAS A SWORD! How often does that combo happen?!

  6. Jha,

    I have a larger photo of the cover for better inspection 🙂

    Historically, Malay women have been known to carry a mini keris in their hair! For self-defense and perhaps not surprisingly for domestic purposes as well. Though the colour pink doesn’t happen very often. It will be very interesting to read how Balqis is portrayed in this rather weird children’s sci-fi novel.

  7. Okay, the hantu (ghost) stories in Malaysia exist somewhere between fiction and non-fiction genre, rarely in extended prose/novel format, depending on the reader’s level of gullibility and, I don’t really want to go this far, iman. That said, you’re quite right bingregory, Malays are just as hooked on ghosts, demons, orang bunian, and the like as on formulaic, heteronormative love stories.

  8. Mini-keris in their hair?! I did not know this! That is SO COOL! XD

    Look at that graphic! It’s almost 2-bit but not! Loving the pose on the pink girl though. It kinda says to me, “I am here and I will kick your ass! Without even catering to your male gaze! Take that!”

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