Promoting an understanding of Islam that recognises the principles of
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Borders Statement: Borders deeply regrets Syariah Court’s decision (7 October 2013)
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Statement by the COO of Berjaya Books Sdn Bhd, Yau Su Peng

Borders deeply regrets Syariah Court’s decision
Refusal to drop criminal charge on store manager Nik Raina despite High Court ruling

This morning, 7.10.2013, was supposed to be a happy day for our store manager, Nik Raina Nik Abdul Aziz. But it was not to be.

Nik Raina was wrongfully and illegally charged by JAWI on 19.6.2012. Since that day, she and her family had to suffer great humiliation and trauma. She is a Muslim and like many Malaysian Muslim women, she wears the tudung as respect for her faith. However, her image as a respectable Muslim woman was severely tarnished because the charge made by JAWI against her was that she distributed a book that defiled Islam. In a majority Muslim country like Malaysia, an allegation that a person has defiled Islam generates all kinds of negative implications.

Thus, on 22.3.2013, Nik Raina was elated when the Kuala Lumpur High Court ruled that the actions by JAWI in arresting and prosecuting Nik Raina was “unreasonable and irrational” and that the Syariah criminal charge against her in the Syariah High Court is “an infringement of Article 7 which is a provision concerning fundamental liberties, guaranteed by our Federal Constitution.”

Concerned over the psychological impact that this long drawn case was having on Nik Raina, we immediately instructed our lawyers to seek a discontinuance of the Syariah criminal charge; our lawyers proceeded to discuss with JAWI and the Attorney General Chambers on the best
way to cause a withdrawal of this case in a manner that would preserve the integrity of all parties concerned.

After several adjournments, the Syariah criminal case was eventually called this morning. Naturally, Nik Raina and all the staff and management of Borders were looking forward to an end to this long drawn unnecessary episode.

Therefore, we were surprised that after the JAWI prosecutors informed the Syariah Court that they were seeking a withdrawal of the charge, the JAWI prosecutors made subsequent submissions that were contrary to their withdrawal application. Consequently, the Syariah Court
decided that it would not allow a discontinuance of the Syariah criminal charge because it felt that it needed to uphold the independence of the Syariah Court from any interference by the Civil High Courts.

Borders deeply regrets JAWI’s insincerity in the withdrawal application. Borders further regrets the Syariah Court’s decision in refusing to drop the criminal charge against Nik Raina despitehaving been brought to its attention that the Civil High Court had ruled in the Judicial Review proceeding that the Syariah criminal charge brought by JAWI was invalid, illegal and unconstitutional.

The incident this morning is unprecedented. Normally, when the prosecution has intimated its withdrawal of any criminal charge and has conceded that the charge is invalid and illegal, the Court would not prevent such withdrawal and would in fact on its own motion strike down the charge. Thus, the decision by the Syariah Court was quite out of the ordinary. It is to be noted that the case had not started. In fact, Nik Raina had also declined to make a plea when the charge was read out to her on 19.6.2012. There was no prejudice to anyone if the criminal
charge was withdrawn today and the whole criminal case be brought to a swift end. There was no interference whatsoever on the Syariah Court’s jurisdiction.

Nik Raina is since speechless and deeply shocked. “I have been truly victimised and can only hope that my employers will continue to assist in clearing me of the baseless and unfair charge.”

It is unfortunate that the caution given by our legal counsel Rosli Dahlan, during the proceeding this morning “that there should be wisdom in handling this matter to avoid conflict of laws and a constitutional crisis” was not given due regard.

There is now uncertainty. What else must we, Borders, do to help Nik Raina gain her freedom?

Berjaya Books Sdn Bhd, as owner of the Borders brand in Malaysia, hopes that our governmental authorities will intervene to seek a resolution to this matter so as to end this confusion and that might bring chaos to our multi racial society.

Meanwhile we remain steadfast in protecting and standing by its staff and will not be altering our hiring policy in order to prevent future “mishaps” and continue to have faith in the Malaysian justice system

On a final note we would like to record our thanks to all those - friends, fans and media alike - who have supported Nik Raina throughout her trying and traumatic journey and hope to have their continued support.


For media enquiries, please contact Liza Ramli on +6019 387 4612 or e-mail
MalaysiaKini - 'What of domestic violence between unmarried couples?' (1 October 2013)
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'What of domestic violence between unmarried couples?'
1 October 2013

While proposed amendments to the Penal Code attempt to address domestic violence, it would still leave many perpetrators untouched, says a coalition of women's rights groups.

The Joint Action Group for Gender Equality (JAG) said this is a cause of concern as 54 percent of domestic violence cases last year did not occur between married couples.
Such oversight, including other proposed amendments to the Prevention of Crime Act 1959 (PCA), may have stemmed from the lack of consultation, JAG said in a statement today.

"With this in view, JAG calls for the proposed amendments to be halted immediately, so that civil society and other stakeholders can be consulted meaningfully on these proposed amendments before they are passed into law," it said.

According to JAG, police data show that domestic violence more commonly involves former spouses, parents, children, siblings and other members of households.

"The proposed amendments need to be extended to former spouses and other family members as defined in the Domestic Violence Act," it said.

According to the Penal Code Amendment Bill tabled in Parliament last week, the maximum penalty for causing physical hurt is doubled if the perpetrator is found to be married to the victim.

For example, if a person is convicted for grievously hurting someone, he/she can go to jail for seven years under Section 325. However, if the victim is his/her spouse, he/she can go to jail for 14 years.

Severe penalty useless if enforcement is lax

In their lengthy preliminary comments on the amendments, JAG said mandatory jail terms for spousal abuse may also discourage victims from reporting domestic violence.

"JAG proposes mandatory rehabilitative counselling instead, and for judges to have discretion on imposing imprisonment."

It also called in question the failure to introduce marital rape into the Penal Code, despite it being recognised by the World Health Organisation.

Commending the attempt to penalise violence against women more severely,  it said, however, that such efforts would be in vain if enforcement of the already existing laws was lax.

"Poor enforcement results in, among others, low conviction rates. No matter how heavy the punishment, non-implementation of enforcement will not deter perpetrators.

The Star - Musings - A question of security or insecurity (26 September 2013)
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Thursday September 26, 2013

While it is true that security is a constant issue, I wonder if the real reason behind it is that feeling of uncertainty or a lack of confidence and anxiety about ourselves.

SINCE we are all worried about security these days, I decided to look up the meaning of “insecurity”.

Besides the feeling of being constantly in danger or under threat, insecurity also means “a feeling of uncertainty, or a lack of confidence and anxiety about yourself”.

While we worry daily about the many crimes being committed in our neighbourhoods with no real solution in sight, sometimes I wonder if we have a security crisis or an insecurity crisis.

While it is true that security is a constant issue, I wonder if the real reason behind it is that feeling of uncertainty or a lack of confidence and anxiety about ourselves.

These feelings of security and insecurity are of course related.

On the one hand, the very people who should make us feel secure are in fact making us insecure.

How certain do we feel about our future when we see hesitant and sometimes absent leadership at times when we most need it?

How can we not feel anxious when the leadership is silent on the things that matter to the citizenry?

As a citizen, I want a decent life for my family, my fellow citizens and myself. This, anyone would think, is quite basic and common to everyone.

I want to be able to have a roof over my head, education for my kids, the opportunity to earn a decent living and affordable healthcare when I need it.

When a human being is unable to have these basics, then they start to feel that most normal of human instincts, insecurity.

If enough people feel that way, then that’s a recipe for instability and mass insecurity.

It is not possible for any country to be stable if many of its people feel hungry or deprived of the most essential ingredients to lead a normal life.

Countries rise and fall based on these simple facts. Once inequalities start to spread, then it is only normal that insecurity, in the sense of danger, follows.

I was talking to a friend who has been working abroad a lot about a situation that he found very stark since he’s been back.

There are people who seem to be caught in a quagmire of debt that they simply cannot get out of.

The vicious cycle of inability to access what a person needs which leads to overuse of credit, which leads to an inability to pay, which then leads to getting loans at high interest rates from unscrupulous persons, seems never ending.

It leads to insecurity not just for the original borrower but also for all those within his or her family circle.

Recently, two leading religious figures have spoken about this terrible crisis that many face, of easy credit and crushing debt.

The former Archbishop of Canterbury, Dr Rowan Williams, warned that the ease at which money, in its virtual form, not in exchange for actual goods and services, is available has led to much misery among people.

Most recently, Pope Francis talked about the same thing, how the pursuit of money for its own sake has brought with it “a culture where the weakest in society suffer the most” and often, those on the fringes “fall away”, including the elderly, who he said were victims of a “hidden euthanasia” caused by “neglect of those no longer considered productive”.

I have yet to hear the Muslim equivalent of this, of concern for a global system that is increasing insecurity of people everywhere.

Instead, I hear a different insecurity, of one where there are constant so-called moral attacks, usually by imagined assailants. Where limited interpretations of religion are to be enforced because otherwise the religion will disappear, despite evidence to the contrary.

In some ways, these self-appointed guardians of religion have reason to worry.

Every action of theirs is self-defeating. For every cruelty they inflict on those who are weak, they lose more adherents.

For every injustice they perpetuate, there are people who leave disgusted. For every justification they give to inequality, people baulk and root for equality.

When we look at the most unstable countries in the world, inevitably they are also the ones with masses of poor people.

Economic injustice breeds problems not just within countries, but externally as well.

It leads to mass migration of people to look for work, and sometimes it brings violence.

It thus makes sense to prioritise dealing with such injustice.

Instead, we see our leaders behaving like people anxious about protecting their own comforts rather than anyone else’s.

This they do by distracting us from real issues, by telling us that some small groups of people, even dead ones, are a threat, by refusing to let some people speak or even be seen in our media.

So I have to ask: Who’s the insecure one?

> The views expressed are entirely the writer’s own.
The Star - Musings - The value of human dignity (12 September 2013)
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Thursday September 12, 2013

The importance of respecting a person’s dignity is also tied to respecting their bodily integrity.

ONE of the things that we try to impart to our children is the value of human dignity, where we try and teach them to respect others, never to shame others in public and to always conduct ourselves with decorum.

Our pity is often cast on those whose lives have fallen apart and who have to bear the indignities that society can wreak on the indigent and the ill.

We know that the importance of respecting a person’s dignity is also tied to respecting their bodily integrity. Hence our concern – some would say, obsession – with the way people, especially women, are dressed.

The ostensible reason is that it protects a person’s physical integrity.

A dignified person is therefore a whole person, respected and respectful.

Imagine therefore my horror and shock at a story of an ustazah in a school who, disbelieving her female students who said they could not pray because they had their period, decided to check their underwear to see if they were telling the truth.

It must be a special kind of sick sadist that thinks that checking another person’s underwear is a viable way of carrying out their duties. It is a blatant abuse of power over those who are unable to refuse the command.

Mothers rarely ask to look at their young daughters’ underwear except with very good reason, such as if they suspect they are ill. Why then does a teacher who otherwise has no business to touch the bodies of our children feel she can do this with impunity?

Imagine the effect it will have on the students. It is bad enough not to be believed but to be violated in this way must surely have an effect on their self-esteem.

Do we not care if we bring up children with low self-esteem or is that the idea, to create a whole generation of subservient girls?

More insultingly, it is done in the name of religion.

It just points to the sheer ludicrousness of public ritual as an indicator of piety.

I don’t know what KPI the ustazah had that she had to ensure that every single girl under her charge prayed every day.

Yet for all the praying, which presumably she does too, she still could not trust her own charges. If they say they cannot pray that day, then really she should just trust them and leave it in the hands of the Almighty.

Apparently this sort of thing is not uncommon in our schools and even in Muslim schools elsewhere. A friend told of how when she was in school, girls had to indicate on a chart when they had their period. If their period lasted more than 15 days, then this was cause for speculation that they were lying and therefore liable to be subject to punishment for not praying.

I have to wonder what punishment is reserved for boys who try to excuse themselves from prayers since there are no similar indicators for them. Should girls be punished merely because of biology?

The reaction of most of my friends who heard this story is that the parents of the girls should sue the teacher and the school.

Schools are after all meant to be spaces that are safe for our children.

Safety does not just mean physical safety but safety from the sort of mental abuse that this sort of physical “inspection” causes.

But the chances are that the parents won’t. Firstly, they are likely to feel embarrassed about the whole thing and secondly, who are they to dispute a teacher, and a religious teacher at that, who has power over their child for most of the day? They are also likely to be shamed for not keeping tabs on their daughters’ prayer schedules themselves.

In other words, such abusive teachers are likely to carry on this behaviour knowing that nothing much will happen to them.

What do we teach our children when we behave like this? We teach them that power over someone weaker is everything, that the powerful can do anything, especially humiliate a powerless person.

We teach our children that their bodies are not theirs, and yet at the same time we scold and punish them if they allow the “wrong” people to touch them. Is an ustazah, even if she is of the same sex, the right person? Some people will say she was only looking and not touching. That’s splitting hairs really.

It is things like these that make parents lose trust in our schools and our teachers. Schools are where our children should be able to grow as human beings, to fulfil their potential to be contributing members of society.

Instead, we are turning them into humiliated people who may well turn into future abusers themselves.
Malaysian Digest - 'They Have The Right To Wear Headscarves' (12 September 2013)
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KUALA LUMPUR: Every Muslim women, like all women in the country, should be treated equally and this include the right to wear headscarves to work.

Sisters In Islam program manager Suri Kempe said the 'no tudung'-type of employment policy was discriminatory and have no place in a country with diverse cultural and religious background like Malaysia.

"This is discrimination against Muslim women. Like all women in Malaysia, they have the right to be treated equally," she said when asked to comment on Malaysian Digest's report yesterday on a woman, known as Ira, who faced multiple rejection when applying for a  job at several branded stores in KLCC because she wears a headscarf.

Suri said Muslim women should be allowed to practise their religious belief, including the wearing of headscarf.

She also called on the Human Resources Ministry to look closely into Ira's case, and address discriminatory policies against women at the workplace.

"We should be free from discrimination and prejudice, and no restriction on what a person should and should not wear. This does not apply only to Muslim women, in fact non-Muslims too should be allowed to practise their religious beliefs," she said.

Suri said cases like Ira's should not have happened because clothes after all does not reflect a person's ability to execute a given task.

Independent Islamic preacher Datuk Daud Che Ngah was appaled that such incidents, which he described as discriminatory to Muslim women, still occurred in the country.

"What have they done wrong and why the need to differentiate someone who wants to adhere to their religious belief?," he said.

Daud said companies should respect the country's diversity and described such move as un-Islamic.

"If they can't respect that then they should not be doing business here,"

"Although some may say it is company policy, but such move (of not allowing women in headscarf at work) is still discriminatory against Muslim women who are just adhering to their religious belief,"

"Working, is part of ibadah in Islam but Muslims must also observe to the rules of the religion,"

Daud said similar issue popped up during the 70s where most Muslim women working in factories in the Klang Valley were not allowed to wear headscarves.

"Tabung Haji and I spearheaded a discussion with the factory owners and nowadays you can see that most factories, including the foreign owned ones, have allowed the practise. This means they are can be respectful to their Muslim workers."

Dewan Muslimat PAS spokeswoman Ustazah Rosiah Salleh however felt the stores' move was not discriminatory.

"The applicants do have the right to choose and should not use this as an excuse. As a worker, we have to adhere to companies' rules and regulations. If they can't accept women wearing headscarves working for them, then go find soomeplace else to work," she said.

She said there were many other job opportunities that are open to women wearing headscarves.

"This is not discrimination. They still have a choice to gon elsewhere," she said when contacted yesterday.

However, Rosiah said employers in an Islamic country like Malaysia should learn to respect women who wears headscarves as it was part of their religious obligations.

In the meantime, mD's report yesterday received more than 50 comments, most of them condemning the stores for the discriminatory practise.

One of them, Manjalara went on to described her own experience when she was applying for a job at a hotel.

Pak Pandir meanwhile said the policy adopted by the three stores are backward thinking and out of date. He urged the owners to be more open.

Yesterday, mD reported that 24-year-old Ira, who was looking for a part-time job as a retail assistant was turned down by several branded retail stores in KLCC for wearing a headscarf.

She had highlighted her 'predicament' on Facebook and her status update has reached close to 9,000 shares on the social media site.

mD went to checked out the stores she mentioned and found out to be true.

Meanwhile, Esprit has offered their sincere apologies for the ordeal Ira had gone through.

"At Esprit, it is our company Code of Conduct to ensure 'equal opportunity in employment' and we do not tolerate discrimination of any kind," Esprit PR officer Joyce Wong wrote in a press release, yesterday.

Wong wrote, as a global organization, Esprit believes that diversity in their staff is important for the company's success.

Workers Should Adhere To Dresscode Set By Employer

THE Malaysian Employers Federation chief Shamsuddin Bardan says dress code at work is under the employer's discretion.

The employer, he said, in principle can come up with a dress code of  their own and job applicant had accepted the job offer should adhere to it, including rules on the wearing of headscarf.

"If one is offered a job but unable to follow the dress code, then he or she can always choose not to accept the offer. If they accept it, then they are bound to the company's policy," he said via an email reply yesterday.

Shamsudin said although the wearing of headscarf is a religious obligation, the decision lies in the hands of the job applicant whether they could adhere to the company's policy.

"It can't be described as diiscrimination because the person still have a choice to accept or refuse the job offer," he said.

The Star - Musings - Focus on positive things we can do (29 August 2013)
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Focus on positive things we can do

29 August 2013


The voiceless and powerless are further discriminated by divisive issues.

SOMETIMES we need to look at our country from a long distance to truly see it as it is.

I have been travelling for the past two weeks and while it is nice to totally switch off news from home, occasionally I can’t help it.

Predictably enough there is hardly ever any news that makes me homesick.

Instead, there is only news that makes me sick at heart.

The whole resort surau (place of worship) issue blew up right after I left and honestly reading about it from afar makes me want to shake my head at the ridiculous lengths our politicians will go to supposedly garner popularity.

I won’t repeat the numerous sensible arguments so many have put forward against taking punitive action against the resort manager for what is at worst a naive mistake.

When people have apologised, magnanimity requires that we accept it. Not accepting apologies reeks of arrogance. After all, even God accepts those who repent.

In fact, the one striking thing about the recent many occurrences of the ease of offendedness was not only the sudden thin-skinnedness of politicians and religio-politicians but also the audience for this.

When it comes to religion, we are always exhorted to do everything for God.

Even given that some people actually think getting offended is a good thing, I have to ask: are we doing this for God or simply for other human beings, especially those whose votes we need in the coming elections?

If it is the latter, then we are already wrong. If it is the former, then why would Almighty God not only choose to speak through the Home Minister but choose the taking away of permanent residency as His chosen form of punishment?

Nor is the destruction of places of worship something that is sanctioned by the God some of us purport to represent.

As many have pointed out, places of worship often go through various incarnations.

The Kaaba itself was once a temple of idolatory until Prophet Muhammad cleansed it of its idols. Today, it is Islam’s holiest site. If the Kaaba can be so easily converted as a holy place from one faith to another, what more a humble resort surau?

Honestly, from afar, our politicians and their band of followers simply look stupid.

There are far more important things to worry about than whether rooms can be used for one faith or another, or who one calls God or whether everyone fits into one uniform faith box or not.

All over the world people are dying from hunger and war. How does the destruction of one surau help them?

In Britain, everywhere I go, I see posters gently requesting people to donate to causes in developing countries, to help people have clean water, simple medical treatment or for children to go to school.

The football association has just started a campaign for tougher penalties against racism, sexism and homophobia.

These are all positive things to do because those who are voiceless and powerless will feel more protected.

In contrast, in our country, every day we only see more calls for the voiceless and the powerless to be even more marginalised and discriminated against.

And the worst thing is, not only do we think this the right and – gallingly – the religious thing to do, but we are actually proud of it.

If we only read our religious books, then we would know that we should actually be ashamed.
The Star - Need we be so sensitive? (24 August 2013)
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Need we be so sensitive?

Published: Saturday August 24, 2013

In the wake of recent controversies, it might be a good idea to show the love and mercy which is inherent in Islam.

AS good Muslims, we are taught from young to begin our day and to begin all our activities for that matter, with the standard refrain Bismillahir Rahman nir Rahim (in the name of Allah, the loving and the merciful).

We are always thus reminding ourselves that Allah is loving and merciful and in the process are also reminding ourselves to be loving and merciful.

There are many dimensions to love and mercy, such as compassion, understanding, tolerance, magnanimity and may I add, inclusiveness.

Which brings me to the question: Why then have we become so unloving and so unmerciful? By we, I mean the Malaysian Muslims. We have become super sensitive, a reflection of how, some say, insecure we have become.

Our religion is followed by 1.2 billion worldwide and rising. We are not a small cult ready to be wiped into oblivion by the stroke of a pen.
The Muslims in Malaysia are in majority and even without the love and mercy inherent in our religion, surely our bigger number can afford us certain magnanimity, if not mercy.

I am deeply troubled by this, to borrow a phrase, “culture of offendedness”, where we see insults in every corner and in every inadvertent utterances, no matter how innocuous.

Let us take this incident of the surau in Sedili Besar, used by the Buddhist group for a meditation session.

The owner of the resort most likely did not think his decision through and in this climate of offendedness, should probably have consulted a person of (religious) authority.

I highly doubt that he woke up that morning and said “I am going to insult Islam today” by allowing the Buddhist group to use the surau.

In all likelihood, he made the decision on the spot, to accommodate his guests’ request and when you are running a hospitality establishment, you have to make many of those kinds of decisions, some good and some bad, which of course you will only find out later.

To be stripped of his PR status for basically making a not very good (business) decision is tragic, to say the least.

Many years ago, when my son was at an Anglican boarding school, he always felt odd when he had to attend chapel services, a compulsory requirement by the school.

He felt alien as he could not, spiritually, claim a space in that chapel as he knew he was Muslim and would always be one.

He had his religious books that I had equipped him with and I also told him to use that time for some quiet reflection and think about his own spirituality and his connection to his own religion.

In the final year, when the school conducted a Leaving Service for all school leavers, he asked the school’s permission to claim a small “spiritual space” in the chapel by reciting the Takbir.

Without the blink of an eye, the school was happy to accommodate that request, even though the school’s Muslim’s population was less than 1%.

They were not offended by the request, they thought it was an excellent idea, at the very least to remind parents that even though they were an Anglican school, there are students of other faiths as well.

When my son recited the Takbir (I was not forewarned), in a mellifluous voice that was magnified by the excellent acoustic of the chapel, it was surreal and hair raising, to say the least.

I am always proud of my sons but that day, I was super proud of this one. The majority of the parents had never heard a Takbir before but they applauded and congratulated him and none of them indicated any hints of being insulted.

They wanted to know more about the spiritual significance of the wordings and what it meant to all of us.

That was then, and in another country, but it was an unforgettable experience for me. I taught my children, as Muslims, our iman is strong and should remain strong.

Sitting in a chapel does not make us Christians. In the face of challenges, instead of our iman getting weaker, it should strengthen our resolve and make it stronger.

My children cannot fathom the furore over the Sedili Besar surau incident.

The Buddhist group has apologised, the resort owner has apologised, can’t we just learn a lesson (of sorts) here and move on? Is there a real need to demolish the surau? Can we not display the mercy and compassion we so proudly recite everyday, in the name of Allah?

> Jamilah Ibrahim is a social activist. Her passion is to uphold and promote a progressive, reasoning and inclusive Islam.
MalaysiaKini - Abort pregnancy test for NS trainees, says SIS (20 August 2013)
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Abort pregnancy test for NS trainees, says SIS

Aug 20, 2013

Another women's rights NGO has called for a review of the decision to force all female National Service trainees to undergo pregnancy tests, calling it a "disproportionate response".

In a press statement today, Sisters in Islam (SIS) said this was because only six out of thousands of young women who underwent the programme had given birth at the camps since 2004.

The decision was also a "violation of person's right to privacy and bodily integrity" as recognised by the Ministry of Women, Family and Community Development in 2010, SIS said.

"Instead of violating privacy rights, we believe that the Defence Ministry has the unique opportunity to address the issue by empowering our youths with the knowledge they need to develop for a lifelong positive attitude towards their social and reproductive health through comprehensive sexual and reproductive health and rights education," it said.

SIS added that the Defence Ministry should also expand on the reproductive health module developed by the Women, Family and Community Development Ministry for the National Service trainees that was launched in February 2011.

The movement also pointed out that the Women, Family and Community Development Ministry also opposed mandatory pregnancy tests for National Service trainees.

"As a policy, the ministry is against conducting pregnancy tests as a requirement for all female NS participants as there are issues of privacy involved.

"Under current laws, any procedure that involves children under the age of 18 requires parental consent," then minister Shahrizat Abdul Jalil had said in a statement in 2010.

Other women groups have also spoken against the forced tests, raising fears that it may push young women with unplanned pregnancies to risk botched abortions to avoid being found out.

94 percent of trainees agree

National Service Department director Abdul Hadi Awang Kechik yesterday announced that female trainees would have to undergo a mandatory pregnancy test.

Abdul Hadi said the Cabinet had approved this at a meeting last month, while 94 percent of trainees and their parents surveyed in 2011 agreed to mandatory pregnancy tests.

"The decision was made following discussions with the Defence Ministry and studies by the Women, Family and Community Development Ministry regarding pregnancy tests on draftees," Bernama reported him as saying.

The third batch of trainees in 2013, who started their training on Aug 17, would be the first to undergo the tests.

The trainees were mostly selectively drafted 18-year-olds, although some might not have turned 18 yet while others who had deferred training might be older.

Those drafted must undergo three months of training, but several exclusions are allowed. Pregnant women are excused from attending training.
Malaysian Digest - Di Mana Silapnya Fatwa Kita - Sisters In Islam (19 August 2013)
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Di Mana Silapnya Fatwa Kita - Sisters In Islam

Oleh ZAINAH ANWAR/ Sisters In Islam
Monday, 19 August 2013 16:57

FATWA hanyalah pendapat berbentuk nasihat untuk membimbing ummah menjalankan kehidupan mereka berdasarkan ajaran Islam.

Saya tertanya-tanya, agaknya berapa ramai orang Malaysia yang tahu bahawa di bawah Akta Kesalahan Jenayah Syariah negara ini, ianya satu kesalahan jenayah jika seseorang yang beragama Islam menghina, atau mengingkari, melanggar atau mempertikaikan perintah, atau arahan pihak berkuasa agama atau apa-apa fatwa yang sedang berkuatkuasa kini.

Berapa ramai pula yang tahu bahawa Malaysia merupakan satu-satunya negara di dunia Islam yang menggabungkan pendapat ulama sebagai undang-undang negara tanpa terlebih dahulu melalui proses pembentukan perundangan yang sepatutnya dan seterusmya menetapkan ianya sebagai satu kesalahan bagi sesiapa yang mencabar pendapat tersebut.

Perkara ini bercanggah dengan jaminan perlembagaan yang menjanjikan kebebasan hak asasi, lebih-lebih lagi ianya tidak mempunyai asas dalam sejarah perundangan Islam.

Tambah pula, pihak yang terbabit dalam mengetengahkan undang-undang tersebut di Parlimen dan Dewan Undangan Negeri seolah-olah tidak tahu-menahu tentang perkara ini.

Pada tahun 1997 lagi, Sisters in Islam telah menyerah kepada Perdana Menteri ketika itu, Tun Dr. Mahathir Mohamad, satu memorandum untuk mendapatkan perhatian beliau mengenai undang-undang persekutuan dan negeri di bawah Akta Kesalahan Jenayah Syariah.

Di dalam memorandum tersebut, pihak SIS telah menegaskan bahawa dalam pemikiran perundangan Islam (Islamic legal thought), fatwa adalah sekadar pandangan dan nasihat sahaja, dan tidak mempunyai kuasa yang setara dengan undang-undang.

Justeru, dengan menetapkan bahawa ianya satu kesalahan untuk menyangkal fatwa, bererti pendapat seseorang Mufti adalah setara dengan perintah Tuhan.
Di samping itu, kami menegaskan kepada beliau bahawa kuasa untuk menetapkan undang-undang di Malaysia berada dalam tangan Parlimen dan Dewan Undangan Negeri, bukan jawatankuasa fatwa.

Tambahan pula, hak untuk mengekang kebebasan asasi sepatutnya terhad kepada Parlimen sahaja. Oleh itu, penggunaan fatwa untuk menghukum apa-apa kesalahan adalah bertentangan dengan perlembagaan dan menceroboh kuasa kerajaan persekutuan.

Beliau telah mengarahkan supaya undang-undang tersebut digantung dan mengarahkan pejabat Peguam Negara untuk mengkajinya dengan lebih teliti berikutan bantahan masyarakat umum terhadap penahanan dan pendakwaan tiga orang wanita yang dituduh melanggar fatwa kerana menyertai pertandingan ratu cantik Miss Malaysia Petite. Kejadian tersebut menarik perhatian orang ramai terhadap kewujudan Akta Kesalahan Jenayah Syariah.

Namun, setelah keadan kembali tenang, penelitian semula ke atas undang-undang tersebut seolah-olah dilupakan dan tiada sebarang perkembangan diumumkan.

Pendek kata, undang-undang tersebut terus kekal dan berkuatkuasa dan digunakan untuk menakutkan pihak yang berani mencabar pandangan pihak berkuasa agama dari semasa ke semasa walaupun Malaysia sering dijadikan contoh sebagai negara Islam yang moden dan sederhana.

Pada tahun 2005, sekali lagi Sisters in Islam menyerahkan memorandum untuk menggesa kerajaan mengkaji semula dan memansuhkan Akta Kesalahan Jenayah Syariah berikutan pembantahan orang ramai terhadap penangkapan 100 orang pemuda-pemudi Muslim di pusat hiburan Zouk.

Kali ini, SIS turut menyertakan kajian oleh dua orang pakar perundangan yang telah mengkaji undang-undang tersebut dari sudut pandang perlembagaan dan fekah.

Apa lagi yang perlu dibuat untuk menyedarkan pihak kerajaan bahawa pemaksaan kepercayaan tidak membawa kepada keimanan.

Oleh itu, setiap kali sesuatu fatwa yang tidak dapat diterima orang ramai dikeluarkan atau sesuatu undang-undang yang mencabul kebebasan asasi warganegara dikuatkuasakan, ia membangkitkan bantahan masyarakat umum.

Pada masa yang sama, pihak berkuasa agama berasa terhina dan bingung mengapa begitu ramai rakyat Malaysia, termasuk umat Islam, berani mencabar pandangan mereka dan bercanggah pendapat dengan umat Islam yang lain.

Bukan jenayah

Rakan-rakan dan sarjana yang saya kenal di dunia Arab sememangnya terperanjat melihat bagaimana sebuah negara moden seperti Malaysia boleh berfikiran sempit dan jumud dalam soal Islam.

Setiap orang yang saya temui tahu bahawa fatwa adalah pendapat berbentuk nasihat yang berperanan membimbing umat untuk menjalani kehidupan menurut Islam.

Fatwa adalah hujah-hujah ilmu kalam dan perundangan yang diberikan dalam bentuk soal-jawab. Kalau fatwa boleh dianggap mengikat sekali pun, ia hanya terikat kepada mereka yang bertanya, dan bukan kepada umum dan sudah tentu perbuatan melanggar fatwa tidak boleh dianggap sebagai jenayah.

Malah, jika anda tidak setuju dengan fatwa yang diberi oleh ulama berkenaan, anda boleh bertanya kepada ulama lain dan terpulang kepada anda untuk memutuskan fatwa mana yang hendak dipegang. Setiap umat Islam faham bahawa akhirnya, ia adalah urusan antara mereka dan Tuhan.

Wallahu a’lam – hanya Tuhan yang lebih mengetahui. Pihak kerajaan tidak berhak memaksa anda untuk meyakini atau mematuhi sesuatu fatwa, memenjarakan anda atau mendenda anda kerana mengingkari pendapat pihak berkuasa agama.

Media pula tidak wajar mensensasikan dan menghasut orang ramai untuk membenci seseorang yang tidak mematuhi fatwa.

Walaubagaimanapun, sesetengah pihak di Malaysia menganggap tradisi Islam tersebut, yang telah membolehkan agama ini berkembang subur dalam semua konteks sosial dan budaya sejak ratusan tahun lalu, sebagai suatu tradisi yang asing.

Kini, terdapat beratus-ratus fatwa disenaraikan dalam portal e-fatwa JAKIM dan pihak berkuasa agama negeri. Fatwa-fatwa tersebut menggariskan pelbagai isu, daripada soal harus atau tidak seseorang mewarnakan rambut yang telah beruban (difatwakan harus cuma untuk tujuan berjihad atau untuk wanita yang hendak menggembirakan suaminya), hinggalah ke soal penggunaan dakwat kekal di jari pengundi (difatwakan harus). Sebahagian daripada fatwa tersebut diwartakan, tetapi sebahagian besarnya tidak.

Sebagai contoh, banyak negeri telah mengeluarkan fatwa yang mengharamkan merokok, cuma Selangor dan Pulau Pinang mewartakan fatwa ini, manakala negeri lain tidak. Selangor, Pahang, dan Pulau Pinang telah mengeluarkan fatwa yang menyatakan bahawa Amanah Saham Bumiputra (ASB) dan Amanah Saham Nasional (ASN) adalah haram, tetapi Majlis Fatwa Kebangsaan memutuskannya sebagai harus. Beberapa negeri selain tiga negeri tersebut mengikuti keputusan Majlis Fatwa Kebangsaan mengharuskan amanah saham tersebut.

Siapa yang benar dan siapa yang salah?

Semua fatwa yang dikeluarkan dipertahankan atas nama Islam. Bila adanya fatwa yang banyak tentang isu yang sama, ada yang hukumnya haram, ada yang harus, ada yang  diwartakan, ada yang tidak, ada negeri yang mempunyai fatwa tentang sesuatu perkara, ada negeri yang tidak, maka apakah pandangan Islam sebenarnya tentang isu tersebut?

Ini tidak menjadi masalah jika Malaysia mengambil pendekatan seperti negara-negara Muslim lain yang menyerahkan kepada kesedaran individu untuk memutuskan pendapat mana dan ajaran mana yang diikuti dan membiarkan Tuhan yang memutuskan di akhirat nanti sama ada individu terbabit berdosa kerana mentaati atau mengingkari ajaran.

Apabila kerajaan cuba memainkan peranan sebagai Tuhan, kita akan terjebak dalam kekeliruan seperti yang terjadi sekarang.

Orang ramai akan mempersoalkan atas asas apakah sesetengah negeri memutuskan untuk mewartakan sesuatu fatwa sedangkan negeri lain tidak? Atas asas apa tindakan diambil terhadap pihak yang melanggar fatwa?

Beribu-ribu umat Islam di Selangor dan Pulau Pinang melanggar fatwa tentang merokok setiap hari, tetapi tiada siapa pernah dituduh menghina Islam atau dituduh melanggar fatwa. Kenapa tidak?

Malah, syarikat rokok tidak pernah didakwa kerana menyebarkan pandangan mereka tentang merokok menerusi iklan dan promosi yang terang-terangan melanggar fatwa.

Tetapi, apabila ada wanita Muslim mengambil bahagian dalam pertandingan ratu cantik, mereka segera diburuk-burukkan dan dikecam bertubi-tubi. Bagaimana pula dengan lelaki Muslim yang mengambil bahagian dalam pertandingan bina badan? Mereka juga mendedahkan aurat dalam pertandingan yang menonjolkan tubuh badan mereka.

Dari segi berat kesalahan, ramai yang tertanya-tanya mengapa ahli-ahli politik serta pegawai-pegawai kerajaan yang rasuah atau ribuan bapa yang gagal menanggung nafkah anak mereka tidak dituduh sebagai menghina Islam? Pendakwaan selektif serta kemunafikan sebeginilah yang mengundang kemarahan orang ramai.

Perbezaan pendapat

Ada sebab yang baik kenapa fatwa tidak pernah dikuatkuasakan sebagai undang-undang dalam sejarah Islam. Apabila fatwa dijadikan sedemikian, natijahnya ianya menyamakan pendapat ulama dengan perintah Tuhan.

Salah satu sebab mengapa doktrin “keputusan mahkamah yang mengikat” (binding precedent) tidak berkembang dalam tradisi perundangan Islam ialah kerana umat Islam berpegang bahawa pendapat seorang mujtahid tidak boleh dianggap sebagai muktamad dalam memahami mesej Quran yang tidak terbatas.
Seorang mujtahid yang lain hanya mampu memberikan pendapat berasaskan pemahamannya mengenai sesuatu teks.

Dalam konteks penggubalan undang-undang dalam negara yang mengamalkan demokrasi, perbezaan pendapat ini patut dibahaskan di ruang awam dan setelah itu badan legislatif akan memutuskan pendapat mana yang hendak digubal sebagai undang-undang di atas dasar kepentingan masyarakat.

Undang-undang awam mestilah boleh diperdebatkan secara terbuka dan dianggap munasabah pada fikiran orang ramai.

Sebaliknya, di Malaysia, pelanggaran fatwa disamakan dengan tindakan menghina Tuhan dan menghina Islam.

Benar, pihak berkuasa agama negeri boleh menganggap tindakan melanggar fatwa sebagai penghinaan terhadap pendapatnya tentang Islam; tetapi ia tidak boleh dianggap sebagai jenayah, dan ia juga tidak boleh menyamakan pendapatnya dengan Tuhan kerana itu adalah syirik (menyekutukan Tuhan dalam apa juga bentuk).

Jika tradisi Islam menganggap perbezaan pendapat adalah satu jenayah, mengapa ada begitu banyak mazhab yang berbeza dan berbagai hukum fekah dalam sejarah Islam?

Dalam kitab-kitab fekah Islam yang dikarang oleh sarjana dan ulama Islam terdahulu, mereka tidak saling tuduh-menuduh menghina Islam antara satu sama lain ketika mereka berselisih pendapat.

Hanya ahli-ahli politik dan pihak yang ingin berkuasa dan mengawal masyarakat yang sanggup melakukan perkara sedemikian.

Tragedi umat Islam pada hari ini ialah apabila kita mengatakan bahawa kita mahu mengembalikan zaman kegemilangan Islam, tetapi apa yang berlaku sebaliknya adalah ketidakadilan terhadap tradisi perundangan Islam yang begitu kaya dan berharga.

Dalam kegilaan kita untuk memaksa semua umat Islam berfikir menurut pandangan dan pendapat kerajaan sahaja, kita menjatuhkan martabat agama dan menyebabkan ianya dicemuh dan dipersendakan.

Sebuah negara moden yang menggunakan kuasa hukuman untuk memaksa seluruh masyarakat Islam mengikut hanya satu pandangan dan pendapat tidak pernah berlaku dalam sejarah Islam.

Malah, ia sama sekali tidak boleh dikuatkuasakan di sebuah negara demokrasi kerana ia akan menimbulkan kemarahan masyarakat umum.

Kita telah menyalahgunakan unsur-unsur otoritatif dalam tradisi Islam untuk memerintah secara kuku besi. Perbuatan sebegini tiada tempatnya dalam negara berdemokrasi mahupun dalam amalan ajaran Islam.

* Artikel ini adalah terjemahan Bahasa Malaysia dari teks asal yang telah diterbitkan oleh Sunday Star pada 4 Ogos lalu. Harus diingati bahawa pendapat yang diberikan penulis adalah bersifat peribadi dan tidak semestinya mencerminkan pandangan sebenar Malaysian Digest.

The Star - Musings - Fostering unity through fasting (15 August 2013)
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Fostering unity through fasting

15 August 2013


FIRST of all, let me wish everyone a Selamat Hari Raya Aidil Fitri, maaf zahir batin.

This year, the idea of forgiveness seems more poignant than ever, given the rancorous Ramadan we just had.

I don’t recall a month more full of anger and tension than this year’s fasting month, ironic given that it is a month when believers are supposed to exercise restraint not only from food but also in thought, word and deed.

But the beginning of the month of Shawal gives us an opportunity to press the reset button.

We ask for forgiveness from our parents, family and friends for whatever wrongs big or small we may have done them in the past year including harsh words and rash deeds, and we forgive those who may have wronged us as well.

I was quite touched reading on Facebook the many status updates asking for forgiveness at Hari Raya by and from Muslims and non-Muslims alike. Malaysians seem to understand the spirit of the Raya season very well, regardless of their religion.

In fact in spite of the many upsetting events during Ramadan, there was still much that we can celebrate as Malaysians.

One was the #Fast4Malaysia event organised by some friends of mine and I to foster unity through a common experience, fasting. On that one day, July 31, non-Muslim Malaysians all over the country and even overseas fasted in solidarity with Muslims to understand what it feels like to not have any food or water from dawn to dusk.

About 60 of us woke up at 4.30am to gather at a 24-hour eatery in Bangsar to have sahur, the pre-fast meal. Many of us knew one another but it was heartening to see people we didn’t know join in.

One young Chinese man came alone and was immediately invited by a young Malay family to sit with them. Another young woman drove all the way from Shah Alam to join in. Two Indian women happened to walk in the same restaurant without knowing what was happening but decided to join in when they learnt why we were there.

There was a sense of camaraderie among us that was truly unifying.

Some first-timers were nervous about how they would cope but everyone else assured them it would be fine. All day on social media like Twitter, people encouraged each other.

Many young Muslims were thril­led and fascinated that their non-Muslim friends were joining them in the fast that day and gave many tips on how to manage the hunger.

Non-Muslims chatted all day about their experience. They uploaded photos of what they ate at sahur and then later on photos of themselves breaking the fast with family and friends.

Some people organised special buka puasa gatherings at home, in their offices and restaurants.

Many blogged about their experience which was overwhelmingly positive. One teacher was at first greeted with incredulity by her fasting students which then became respect that she was joining them for the day. There were even some who continued to fast even after July 31 because they enjoyed the experience.

Even overseas Malaysians joined in. New Zealand was the first to sahur and break fast while Norway was the last. Thus, we were connected through this experience not only with our immediate friends and family, but also with those overseas – Malaysians linking hands around the world.

It’s a pity that such a unifying event got so little coverage from the mainstream media and no mention at all from our leaders except for a few young Opposition politicians.

Perhaps they should look up the #Fast4Malaysia Tumblr site to see how civil society can unite Malaysians in the sort of organic way that politicians cannot. There were no financial inducements, no sponsorship, no T-shirts involved.

People went Dutch at sahur and buka puasa although some generous people hosted meals in their homes for their friends. Many made new friends along the way.

The main outcome was something no politician nor even religious leader could have engendered, mutual respect. Non-Muslim Malaysians, having fasted themselves, renewed their respect for their Muslim fellow citizens who do this for a whole month each year.

Muslim Malaysians, in return, gained a new respect for their non-Muslim compatriots for attempting something which they had no obligation to perform. Both sides experienced something very precious for one another, empathy.

Of course, as is typical, there were detractors and cynics.

Some questioned why fasting should be the experience we used, seeing it as an attempt to impose one religion’s obligation over non-adherents.

This was an ironic question given that the organisers came from all faiths. But we simply took the opportunity of Ramadan to respond to the many upsetting events during the month. If anyone has other creative ideas that can also unify people in the same way, then they should also do it. God knows we need many of these.

Many asked if we would do this again next year and every year. The answer is we don’t know. This was an attempt at uniting Malaysians at a time when there was much that was (and still is) divisive.

We hope that there will be no more need for it in the future. But if there is, then we might. Or we might think of something else we can do that can bring us all together.

Ultimately it is a citizen initiative to bring peace at a time when our leaders fail us. And the more they fail us, the more ordinary Malaysian citizens need to find creative ways to keep us together.

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