A Muslim (it means a good Islamic person) must obey the rules imposed by the religion. If you are just a follower, you are not allowed to interpret any of the rules. You can think about the rules but you cannot interpret it. Only the religious leaders have the authority to interpret some of the rules. Since in most Islamic countries religious leaders are also the state leaders, there is no separation between religion and state. This by it very nature opens the religion up to abuse by the leadership regardless whether they become a state leader or not. They interpret the rules to fit their agenda. This is a fertile ground for toxic leaders to grow including the Taliban. In the Islamic world there is no single leader such as the Pope that governs the entire Muslim world. One toxic leader can cause great damage because of their gross interpretation of the rules. Multiply the number by hundreds or thousands or even millions of leaders, and you have chaos. The levels of gross interpretation are rampant. Every leader can just focus on their organization goals and creating their own followers. The only common grounds that hold these leaders together are rules that are not open to interpretation, the rest is fluid. Rules governing women are among the rules that can be interpreted differently by different leaders.
Some Islamic leaders interpret the rules using cultural context references and some do not. They interpret the rules according to their agenda. The Islamic leaders who interpret the rules using cultural context reference are better in my opinion than the ones who do not. The cultural context reference can be appearance, customs, culture etc.
Appearance for example, men must not reveal to the opposite sex anything above their knees to their belly button. Therefore, technically, it would be OK for a man to go to a mosque to pray or to go anywhere without wearing anything but a piece of textile that covers his belly button to his knees. I have never seen this ever in my life except during hajj. It would be socially unacceptable for an Indonesian man to go to a mosque to pray or to go anywhere without wearing anything to cover his upper torso. I never heard any hot debate about the male proper attire.
The hot debate is always about the women’s proper attire. Women must not reveal to the opposite sex who are not their immediate family member any part of their body with the exception of their palm. They also cannot reveal any silhouette of their body. If a woman reveals any part of their body and it causes a man to be aroused, it is the woman fault and she deserves to be punished.
According to the Muslim leaders, all rules governing the women’s appearances are for the women’s interest. Some Islamic leaders claim that she must cover everything but her palm period. Some leaders argue that she is allowed to show her eyes but not her face and some argue the entire face is OK. The debate is endless.
In my opinion, weather is the main reason that I think Indonesian Muslim women should not wear the head-to-toe burqa style attire. By definition a burqa is “a loose garment (usually with veiled holes for the eyes) worn by Muslim women especially in India and Pakistan and only left some opening in the face” (World Net Search, 2006). The attire is originated in Saudi Arabia with hot and dry climate. According to my Muslim female friends, a burqa style attire is not comfortable for an Indonesian woman because of the hot and humid climate. The minimum long term physical problem with this style of attire is dandruff.
Some of the Indonesian Islamic leaders think that if the women want to go to heaven, she has to wear a black (or any other color) burqa style attire. In my mind, to be fair, those Indonesian Islamic leaders who argue that Indonesian Muslim women must wear burqa style attire should have worn the same attire that the Saudi Arabia men wear with the same exact fabrics. Furthermore, some of these leaders think that the closest you mimic the Prophet Muhammad behaviors blindly without the regard of the cultural context reference, the closer you are to heaven. They never ask the women what they want to wear.
Beside some rules that should have been interpreted using cultural references, the leadership role of Muslim women in any organizations is weakened by the religious rules that are not open to an interpretation. The rules that govern a group prayer are among the rules which are not open to interpretation.
A woman can only lead other women. She never leads a man. If there is a teenage male among them, he must lead the prayer regardless the age of the women or the position of the women in a society. She could be a queen, but when praying in a group, the teenage male is the leader. He must stay in front of all women and lead the prayer. A male leads a transvestite and a transvestite must lead women in a group prayer. That is the right order.