ENTERTAINMENT

Sakdiyah Ma'ruf Is Proving The Hijab Is Relatable To All Women

The Indonesian stand-up comedian is exactly what we need right now.

28/10/2016 1:38 PM AEDT | Updated 30/10/2016 7:59 PM AEDT
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Sakdiyah Ma'ruf will host The Sesquicentennial Inaugural Chaser Lecture and Dinner in November.

Sakdiyah Ma'ruf isn't just a stand-up comedian who happens to be a Muslim woman.

She is a universal voice of empathy for anyone who's ever experienced a bad hair day. More importantly, her voice is one of reason, as she takes Islamic symbols that are often perceived as "scary", and makes them relatable to the masses.

"Islam is a nice and not to mention very practical religion. Running out of money? Fast. Want to get out of a date? Fast. Bad hair day? Wear a hijab," Ma'ruf jokes while on the phone to The Huffington Post Australia.

Through self-deprecation, Ma'ruf' questions the limitations of seeing the hijab purely as a symbol of religion or ideology, instead humanising the very woman wearing it.

"For me it's 'mission accomplished' if I can take the hijab or the burqa from a symbol of 'oppression' to immediately reflecting the different layers of life of Muslim women," Ma'ruf said.

Ma'ruf is one of Indonesia's leading stand-up comedians and will be in Australia next month to host the The Sesquicentennial Inaugural Chaser Lecture and Dinner in Sydney.

In 2015, Ma'ruf received the Václav Havel Prize for Creative Dissent at the Oslo Freedom Forum. Since graduating from university in April, she has turned her focus onto comedy full-time.

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Sakdiyah Ma'ruf aims to humanise Muslim women through comedy.

Ma'ruf jokes that her path was forged in second grade when she came second place in a comedy competition at school -- out of three people.

"Everybody in my class was participating in cool competitions like music, basketball and volleyball and I chose to register for comedy," Ma'ruf said.

However, comedy was never something she thought she could make a career out of until recently, and it hasn't been without its challenges.

"Male comedians completely outnumber women in a very significant proportion not just in Indonesia but around the world," Ma'ruf said.

Indeed, as Indonesia's first female stand-up, television producers have requested she censor her jokes, but Ma'ruf refuses to be silenced.

Comedy is subtle in its aggressiveness. It allows you to hold a mirror up to society, despite its flaws, to find out the reason for certain behaviours and at the same time hold a magnifying glass up to the things we may not be realising.

"Comedy is subtle in its aggressiveness. It allows you to hold a mirror up to society, despite its flaws, to find out the reason for certain behaviours and at the same time hold a magnifying glass up to the things we may not be realising," Ma'ruf said.

Her childhood comedy heroes include Roseanne and Steve Urkel, who she watched religiously as a child despite being "grounded on a daily basis" by her conservative father.

Today, she gravitates towards Margaret Cho and Ellen.

"The greatest success that any marginalised person can achieve is to be able to move past herself and her identity and Ellen has done that," Ma'ruf said.

"However, I love Margaret Cho for the exact opposite reason in that she uses the prejudices that exist against her for being Asian to make people laugh -- which can be really powerful."

"Hopefully one day I can carry the message of debunking stereotypes against Islam in a similar, observational way and be known just as 'Sakdiyah' -- that is the ultimate acceptance," Ma'ruf said.

The Sesquicentennial Inaugural Chaser Lecture and Dinner, will be held on November 17, at Sydney Town Hall.

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