Muslim women without headscarves are a common sight on the streets of the Malaysian capital, Kuala Lumpur.

But engaging them in a discussion about the hijab is difficult.

Norhayati Kaprawi is a Malaysian activist whose recent documentary Aku Siapa (Who Am I) deals with the issue of how women in Malaysia should dress. She found some women unwilling to show their faces in her film – not on religious grounds, but becasue they feared reprisals.

This is a damning reflection on Malaysia’s Muslim society, says Ms Norhayati.

“It’s full of fear. If you don’t follow the mainstream you will be lynched.”

According to the activist, the pressure to wear the hijab grew after the Iranian revolution in 1979, and it is now the most visible sign of Malaysia’s rising Islamic fundmentalism.

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