Both Mais and SIS have done a lot to help Muslims, and should be cooperating to support Malaysia’s commitments on human rights and gender equality.
THE basis of my liberalism is the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR). “Malaysia by virtue of being a member of the United Nations has subscribed to the philosophy, concepts and norms provided by the UDHR, which sets out the minimum and common standard of human rights for all peoples and all nations.” (A quote from the official portal of the Attorney-General’s Chambers of Malaysia.)
The basis of religious pluralism in Malaysia is enshrined in Article 11 of the Malaysian Constitution. My support for SIS Forum (Malaysia), also known as Sisters In Islam (SIS), is further supported by the Convention on the Elimination of all Forms of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW) which Malaysia acceded to on Aug 4, 1995.
In the main, SIS fights for gender equality, justice and fairness. As a non-governmental organisation (NGO), they have helped thousands of women over the years.
Thus, it is perplexing to me that the Selangor Islamic Affairs Council (Mais), through its fatwa committee, should single out SIS and label it a deviant organisation for practising liberalism and pluralism, which it has also deemed deviant.
Attacking pluralism in Malaysia is also an attack on Article 11 of the Constitution, which is the same article that empowers and provides the constitutional cover for setting up organisations such as Mais, in all the states in Malaysia.
Attacking liberalism, from my point of view, is to attack the UDHR which, for me, is the bedrock of liberalism, at least in the Malaysian context.
Singling out and attacking SIS could also be interpreted as negating CEDAW, which Malaysia has already acceded to. Perhaps there are elements lost in translation and definition, but surely Mais has to support Malaysia’s commitment to the UDHR, Article 11 and CEDAW before making its pronouncements.
Mais derives its legitimacy from the Constitution and the laws enacted to support it. It is not an NGO but a Government Organisation (GO).
It has a moral obligation to support the nation’s commitments, the same nation that empowered it in the first place.
I do not see this as a political issue, since neither SIS nor Mais are directly accountable to the rakyat. But there may be politicians who believe that defending Mais may serve their interest within their respective political parties.
They may want to project themselves as the defenders of the faith. While this may serve their individual interests, it may not bode well for their own party overall.
Political parties in Malaysia traditionally fight hard to gain the support of the rakyat, promising and delivering all sorts of goodies during the elections.
They also put forward their manifestos that try to be as inclusive as possible. It therefore follows that they would not want to alienate large swathes of society whom they will have to answer to during the elections.
Simplistically, these are the voters who may potentially be alienated. For liberalism: those voters who believe in their inalienable rights under the UDHR.
For pluralism: those voters who do not profess the religion of Islam and also those voters who do, but disagree that pluralism is unIslamic.
For SIS: all the women voters and those male voters who support gender equality. In my book, to potentially alienate such a large number of voters is simply bad politics.
But then again, I have to remind myself that Mais does not have to account to the voters so I suppose it matters less to them. But it might matter to the members of the council of Mais, quite a few who are Yang Berhormats (YBs).
To be fair to Mais, they do play a big role for the Muslims in Selangor and do a lot of good work as can be seen from their website.
I do support Mais as an organisation looking after the welfare of my fellow Muslims. But Mais as a GO has a moral duty to protect Malaysia’s international image and act within international norms.
In less than two months Malaysia will take its seat at the UN Security Council. There is not much we can do to control the various NGOs in Malaysia, but our GOs should certainly try to be more careful and circumspect in their actions.
Ideally, Mais and SIS should be working together for the betterment of all. Perhaps Mais might rethink their fatwa.
The way that I have just defined liberalism and pluralism may well be acceptable or at least not objectionable to them. If that is the case, then they should clarify.
> Datuk Jema Khan is a KL-based businessman who believes in moderation. The views expressed are entirely the writer’s own.
According to Sisters In Islam, the term “religious liberalism and pluralism” was not raised by any members of the Selangor Fatwa Council during a dialogue held on Jan 12, 2012. — File pic
KUALA LUMPUR, Nov 10, 2014:Sisters in Islam (SIS) has denied ever discussing the issue of liberalism and pluralism in a dialogue with the Selangor Fatwa Council on Jan 12, 2012.
This denial comes after the Selangor State Mufti Department (JMNS) refuted claims that no meeting took place with the women’s organisation before the fatwa on liberalism and pluralism was gazetted on July 17 this year.
SIS did, however, say that it received an invitation to a dialogue with the council, but neither the invitation nor the dialogue agenda mentioned any issues regarding religious faith.The term “religious liberalism and pluralism” was also not raised by any member of the Selangor Fatwa Council during the dialogue, SIS clarified in a statement today.
SIS instead briefed the council on its activities, the necessity for law reform, cases handled thorough its Legal Clinic TeleNisa and findings of its study titled “The Impact of Polygamy on the Muslim Family in Malaysia”.
“If the Selangor Fatwa Council and the Selangor Mufti’s Department wanted to discuss issues of religious liberalism and pluralism, it is incumbent upon them to explain to us their concerns on their understandings of religious liberalism and pluralism.“
They should also point out which specific aspects of SIS activities they believe reflect religious liberalism and pluralism,” SIS explained.
They also said that the council should have made their concerns clear at the time of the meeting if there was any concern about the organisation subscribing to religious liberalism and pluralism.
“Why is it that the fatwa declaring SIS as ‘sesat dan menyeleweng daripada ajaran Islam’ was only issued two-and-a-half years later?“If the outcome from the dialogue led the Selangor Fatwa Council to issue a fatwa, did it not feel that SIS had a right to know about the serious allegations made against it, especially because of the severe implications?”
SIS also questioned why the public was not informed of the fatwa that singled out SIS since no public announcement of it was made either.
According to a statement by Selangor Mufti Datuk Seri Mohd Tamyes Abd Wahid, the meeting on Jan 12, 2012 took place with eight SIS representatives and members of the Selangor Fatwa Committee at the JMNS’ meeting room.The representatives included Zainah Anwar, Datin Paduka Marina Mahathir and Ratna Osman.
SIS: 2012 meeting with mufti’s office did not touch on these issues
PETALING JAYA: A meeting between Sisters In Islam (SIS) and Islamic authorities at the Selangor Mufti’s office in January 2012 did not touch on the issues of pluralism and liberalism, claimed the feminist group. The meeting cannot be taken as “evidence” that the two sides met to discuss other issues, SIS said in a statement here yesterday.
SIS was reacting to reports that quoted Selangor Mufti Datuk Seri Tamyes Abd Wahid as saying the meeting that year was evidence that the Islamic authorities had had a dialogue with SIS before the fatwa was made in July this year that pluralism and liberalism were against Islamic teachings.
The mufti had said eight SIS representatives were present, together with officials of the fatwa committee at the meting at his office.
SIS said it was disappointed and puzzled by the mufti’s statement, adding the fatwa authorities should have raised their concerns and made attempts to advise the group at that time.
SIS added it was never consulted, informed nor given a chance to defend itself on the July fatwa which declared SIS as subscribing to liberalism and religious pluralism.
Insisting there was no mention of “liberalism” and “pluralism” during the dialogue, SIS said they briefed the Selangor fatwa committee about the group’s activities, including cases handled through their legal clinic TeleNisa, and law reforms.
SIS added they also presented the findings of their report on the impact of polygamy on Muslim families in Malaysia. On Oct 31, SIS filed for a judicial review on a fatwa which declared the group as deviating from Islam.
SIS had named the Selangor Fatwa Committee, Selangor Islamic Affairs Council (Mais) and the state government as respondents in the review filed at the Kuala Lumpur High Court.
SIS: No Mention of Liberalism or Pluralism during Dialogue with the Selangor Fatwa Council
Sisters in Islam (SIS) stresses that religious liberalism and pluralism were not issues discussed during the dialogue between SIS and the Selangor Fatwa Council on 12 January 2012.
SIS is disappointed and puzzled by the Selangor Mufti’s statement as reported by the media on 7 November 2014, which cites our meeting with the Selangor Fatwa Council on 12 January 2012 as ‘evidence’ that they met with SIS on the issue of religious liberalism and pluralism.
On 14 December 2011, we received an invitation letter to a ‘Majlis Dialog’ (dialogue session). The invitation letter and the agenda made no mention of matters of faith. Moreover, the terms ‘religious liberalism and pluralism’ were not raised by any members of the Selangor Fatwa Council during the dialogue.
We briefed the Selangor Fatwa Council about SIS activities, including some of the cases that we handle through our Legal Clinic TeleNisa and the necessity for law reform. We also presented the findings from our latest study titled “The Impact of Polygamy on the Muslim Family in Malaysia”.
If the Selangor Fatwa Council and the Selangor Mufti’s Department wanted to discuss issues of religious liberalism and pluralism, it is incumbent upon them to explain to us their concerns on their understandings of religious liberalism and pluralism. Additionally, they should point out which specific aspects of SIS activities they believe reflect religious liberalism and pluralism.
If the Selangor Fatwa Council suspected that SIS subscribed to religious liberalism and pluralism, why did they not raise their concerns and make attempts to advise us at the time? Why is it that the fatwa declaring SIS as “sesat dan menyeleweng daripada ajaran Islam” was only issued two and a half (2 ½) years later?
If the outcomes from the “Majlis Dialog” led the Selangor Fatwa Council to issue a fatwa, did they not feel that SIS had a right to know about the serious allegations made against us, especially because of the severe implications? More importantly, what opportunities was SIS afforded as the accused to defend ourselves?
Curiously, after the fatwa was gazetted, it was not announced to the public. Shouldn’t the public be informed if SIS was considered deviating from the teachings of Islam?
We hope that this statement clarifies any misperceptions and helps the public understand the content of the dialogue between SIS and the Selangor Fatwa Council held on 12 January 2012.
SISTERS IN ISLAM 10 November 2014
SIS: Majlis Dialog dengan Jawatankuasa Fatwa Selangor tidak Membincangkan Liberalisme dan Pluralisme (10 November 2014)
SIS: Majlis Dialog dengan Jawatankuasa Fatwa Selangor tidak Membincangkan Liberalisme dan Pluralisme
Sisters in Islam (SIS) amat kesal dan hairan dengan kenyataan Mufti Selangor Datuk Seri Mohd. Tamyes Abd. Wahid, seperti yang dilaporkan oleh media pada 7 November 2014, yang menyifatkan majlis dialog SIS bersama Jawatankuasa Fatwa Negeri Selangor pada 12 Januari 2012 sebagai ‘bukti’ pihaknya telah bertemu dengan SIS tentang isu liberalisme dan pluralisme agama.
Untuk makluman, undangan ke ‘Majlis Dialog’ dan agenda yang diterima oleh SIS pada 14 Disember 2011 tidak menyentuh langsung isu akidah. Malah, terma ‘liberalisme dan pluralisme agama’ sama sekali tidak dibangkitkan oleh pihak Jawatankuasa Fatwa Negeri Selangor semasa majlis dialog tersebut.
Dalam pertemuan 2012 itu, kami memberikan taklimat mengenai aktiviti-aktiviti SIS, antaranya kes – kes yang dikendalikan melalui program Bantuan Guaman TeleNisa serta keperluan reformasi undang-undang. Kami juga membentangkan hasil kajian terbaru SIS iaitu “Impak Poligami Ke Atas Keluarga Muslim di Malaysia”.
Jika pihak Jawatankuasa Fatwa Negeri Selangor ingin membincangkan isu liberalisme dan pluralisme agama, mereka sepatutnya memberi keterangan dan menjelas kekhuatiran mereka terhadap fahaman liberalisme dan pluralisme yang mereka maksudkan, dan membincangkan aspek-aspek aktiviti SIS yang dianggap berunsur pemikiran-pemikiran fahaman liberalisme dan pluralisme agama.
Sehubungan dengan itu, SIS mempersoalkan mengapa Jawatankuasa Fatwa Negeri Selangor tidak menyatakan kebimbangan mereka serta menasihati kami mengenai fahaman liberalisme dan pluralisme agama pada waktu itu? Mengapa hanya selepas dua tahun enam bulan dari perbincangan tersebut barulah fatwa ini dikeluarkan iaitu mengisytiharkan SIS adalah sesat dan menyeleweng daripada ajaran Islam?
Jika Jawatankuasa Fatwa Negeri Selangor memutuskan untuk mengeluarkan fatwa yang mempunyai elemen tuduhan yang amat berat terhadap SIS hasil daripada majlis dialog pada tahun 2012, tidakkah mereka berasa perlunya memaklumkan pihak yang dituduh iaitu SIS untuk megetahui keputusan hasil daripada majlis tersebut? Jika majlis dialog itu adalah titik tolak bagi Jawatankuasa Fatwa Negeri Selangor mengeluarkan fatwa dua tahun enam bulan kemudiannya, apakah proses yang telah diambil oleh mereka untuk memberi ruang bagi pihak tertuduh (SIS) untuk membuat pembelaan?
Setelah menggazetkan fatwa tersebut, mengapakah ia tidak diumumkan kepada orang awam? Bukankah orang awam perlu diberitahu sekiranya SIS dianggap “sesat dan menyeleweng daripada ajaran Islam”?
Dalam keadaan yang mengelirukan seperti ini, besarlah harapan SIS bahawa kenyataan ini mampu membantu masyarakat memahami intipati pertemuan majlis dialog pada 12 Januari 2012 yang dirujuk oleh Mufti Selangor. Justeru, sekali lagi ditegaskan pertemuan tersebut tidak membincangkan tuduhan liberalisme dan pluralisme seperti yang dihujahkan.
SISTERS IN ISLAM
Isnin, 10 November 2014
Judicial Review Challenges Unjust and Inefficient Administration of Shari'ah Laws in Malaysia (9 November 2014)
Press Statement Judicial Review Challenges Unjust and Inefficient Administration of Shari'ah Laws in Malaysia 9 November 2014
SIS is alarmed to read that the Minister for Religion is calling for all Muslims to defend their religion 'by any method'. Does this mean he is giving the go-ahead for anyone to take vigilante action against those the Minister deems unIslamic, including violence? Does this mean that should anyone physically attack such persons, the state will take no action against them? We would like to remind the Minister that Malaysia is a democratic country, not an theocratic dictatorship. Our Federal Constitution guarantees the fundamental liberties of every citizen including Muslims. The rule of law applies to everyone, and everyone has a right to seek redress in the courts if they feel they have been unfairly treated. We are also puzzled as to why everything should be treated as a challenge to Islam. Perhaps more correctly these are challenges to the unjust and inefficient administration of syariah laws in this country, laws which are man-made and therefore fallible?
Sisters in Islam 9 November 2014
The Malaysian Insider: PAS reps defend SIS, say fatwa baseless (6 November)
PAS central committee member Khalid Samad said the fatwa against Sisters in Islam failed to define what pluralism and liberalism meant. – The Malaysian Insider pic by The Malaysian Insider pic by Zhafri Azmi, November 6, 2014.Two PAS lawmakers have come to the defence of Sisters in Islam (SIS), saying that the fatwa declaring that the organisation subscribed to liberalism and religious pluralism is baseless.
Datuk Dr Mujahid Yusof Rawa and Khalid Samad, who are PAS central committee members, said the religious authorities would have learned that SIS did not deal with theology, let alone liberalism and pluralism, if they had made the effort to meet with the group.
“The fatwa that was gazetted is related to thought, so there must be discussions with the meeting involved,” said Mujahid after attending a dialogue with SIS at Menara Manulife, Kuala Lumpur, today.
"After meeting SIS today, we are satisfied that the issue of pluralism and liberalism does not exist. SIS is more involved in activities promoting the rights of women in Islam, especially related to laws and policies.
”He said he, Khalid, and Kota Raja MP Siti Mariah Mahmud had taken the initiative to hold the dialogue with SIS to understand the group, given the accusations levelled against it.Khalid, who is the MP for Shah Alam, said SIS could not be accused of spreading liberalism nor pluralism as its arguments were based on Islamic teachings and interpretations by scholars.
“Pluralism is the belief that all religions are equal. So far, I have not found any writings or speeches by SIS declaring that all religions are equal.“Liberalism means man, as a prudent being, can act with his conscience and rationale to determine what is right or wrong.
Even though SIS may give views that are different, they try to back it up with proof and interpretations,” said Khalid.He said the fatwa by the Fatwa Committee of Selangor, which was gazetted in July, had failed to define what pluralism and liberalism meant.
According to the fatwa, SIS Forum (Malaysia) and any other individual, organisation or institution that adhered to liberalism and religious pluralism were deviant and misguided.Mujahid said SIS was more involved in activities promoting the rights of women in Islam, especially related to laws and policies. – The Malaysian Insider pic by Zhafri Azmi, November 6, 2014.
SIS filed a judicial review last Friday, saying they had not been consulted by religious authorities over the matter and had stumbled upon it by accident.
Khalid said that while he did not necessarily agree with some of SIS’s views, it did not mean the organisation should be condemned by the religious authorities without given the chance to defend themselves.
“The authorities should give them a chance to defend themselves and ask if what they have been accused of is true.“This is not how Islam should be practised.
Islam is more just and transparent than this, and the society shouldn’t have to fear Islam.”Khalid also hit out at PAS Youth for branding SIS deviant and religious extremists, and asked its deputy head, Muhammad Khalil Abdul Hadi, whether he had met with SIS to have reached such a conclusion.
“He said that what SIS is championing for is wrong and clearly deviant. I would like to ask him, has he even met with SIS?”Khalid said that declaring any organisation as deviant should not be as simple as the religious authorities made it out to be, adding that it had serious implications and must be done responsibly.
“When it involves religious institution and the implementation of the Islamic, they must show that they are doing good. But if this is the case, where every little thing is forbidden, this will cause problems,” said Khalid.
However, Selangor Mufti Datuk Mohd Tamyes Abd Wahid today refused to have any meetings with SIS, saying it would be prejudicial to the court process.Saifuddin, together with Mujahid and Khalid, speaks during a press conference at Kuala Lumpur, today. – The Malaysian Insider pic by The Malaysian Insider pic by Zhafri Azmi, November 6, 2014.
Global Movement of Moderates Foundation (GMMF) CEO Datuk Saifuddin Abdullah, who hosted today’s dialogue, said he supported SIS’s judicial review application as their right to defend themselves.
“GMMF is concerned that there is now a tendency to easily resort to using the law, fatwa and authority whereas we are of the opinion that there are better ways of addressing the issue.
In Islam, muzakarah (dialogues), meetings and so on (are better alternatives).”Saifuddin added that Malaysia needed a more “participatory law-making process” that would allow all quarters to share their views on a law through dialogue, to ensure that justice was served. – November 6, 2014.-
See more at: http://www.themalaysianinsider.com/malaysia/article/pas-reps-defend-sis-says-fatwa-baseless#sthash.RFxfQBHP.RtTz0bTj.dpuf
The Malaysian Insider: We’re not against sultan, says SIS, as fatwas are open for review (6 November 2014)
We’re not against sultan, says SIS, as fatwas are open for review
BY ANISAH SHUKRY
Published: 6 November 2014
Zainah Anwar (centre) of Sisters in Islam speaks during a press conference about an upcoming dialogue with the Global Movement of Moderates at Menara Manulife in Kuala Lumpur today. She said the move to seek a judicial review against the organisation was not a challenge to the Selangor sultan. – The Malaysian Insider pic by Zhafri Azmi, November 6, 2014.
Sisters in Islam (SIS) today denied they were challenging the authority of the sultan with a judicial review of a fatwa against them.
Their statement comes on the heels of the Selangor ruler's warning to Muslims not to criticise his decrees.
SIS said that fatwas had been reviewed and amended in the past, and what they were doing was not unprecedented.
"Fatwas can be reviewed, and it has been changed. Look at the fatwas on Amanah Saham Nasional and Amanah Saham Berhad in Selangor.
"First they said the unit trust funds were haram (prohibited). Then it was changed to ‘tidak halal’ (not permissible."So was that a violation of the sultan's authority?" Zainah Anwar, SIS founding member, told a press conference today in Kuala Lumpur.
The fatwa against SIS, which was gazetted in Selangor in July, declared that the NGO and any other similar organisation that promoted "liberalism and pluralism" were deviant to the teachings of Islam.
The Sultan of Selangor, Sultan Sharafuddin Idris Shah, urged Muslims not to criticise fatwas, especially those released in Selangor, as he was personally responsible for approving the edicts.
"A fatwa that is issued in Selangor is only valid after it has obtained my approval and consent," said the sultan in his speech at the Multaqa Selangor Sultan event in Shah Alam today.
"I urge Muslims to not be so quick in criticising the fatwas that are issued without fully comprehending them."Zainah today explained that a judicial review was not a religious issue, but a constitutional one.
"It is related to our right to freedom of expression, freedom of association and freedom of religion."She also said that the fatwa, issued by the Selangor state, encroached into federal authority as it ordered the Malaysia Multimedia and Communications Commission (MCMC) to restrict social media websites that violate Islamic teachings and laws.
"How is MCMC supposed to obey that fatwa? Is MCMC going to be charged for violating the fatwa if it doesn't block any of those websites?"Does the federal government understand the enormity of this fatwa?" said Zainah.
Datin Paduka Marina Mahathir (pic, right), who sits on SIS's board of directors, said they were simply seeking an opportunity to defend themselves.
"We are questioning the process of the making of the fatwa, as we were not informed (of it) either before the fatwa was passed or after it was gazetted and made into law.
"How would we know if we were contravening the law if we don't know about it? And we found out about it by accident, too," she added.
She said the group had to act quickly once they discovered the fatwa, as a judicial review had to be filed within three months after it was gazetted.
"If we hadn't filed it, we'd be considered deviant now."According to section 13 of the Shariah Criminal Offences (Selangor) Enactment 1995, anyone who contravenes a fatwa that is in force can be fined up to RM3,000 or jailed for up to two years.
SIS executive director Ratna Osman said it was a basic right in Islam to seek clarification, and they had sought explanations from Mais and the Selangor Mufti before applying for the judicial review."We wrote a letter to them to get more information on the fatwa which we learned about accidentally, since we have now been declared deviant.
"There is nothing wrong in asking. I feel that we are respecting the history of Islam, not straying from its teachings." – November 6, 2014.
- See more at: http://www.themalaysianinsider.com/malaysia/article/were-not-against-sultan-says-sis-as-fatwas-are-open-for-review#sthash.wswQ5wgC.dpuf
The Rakyat Post: Did deputy PAS Youth chief clarify with SIS on meaning of signage, asks PAS MP (6 November 2014)
Did deputy PAS Youth chief clarify with SIS on meaning of signage, asks PAS MP
PAS central committee member Khalid Samad says reading and translating the phrase 'We are all children of God' without referring to the person who wrote it could lead to many interpretations.
KUALA LUMPUR, Nov 6, 2014:Did deputy PAS Youth chief Muhd Khalil Abdul Hadi meet Sisters In Islam for a clarification about a signage prior to accusing them of undermining God?
This is the question PAS central committee member Khalid Samad is asking following’s Muhd Khalil’s remark made after SIS board member Datin Paduka Marina Mahathir held up a sign which read: “We are all children of God.”
The Shah Alam lawmaker explained that the term was not literal in sense.“It means we are his creatures and his servants and we have to obey him,” Khalid told reporters after attending a discussion between SIS and PAS here earlier today.
The dialogue was hosted by Global Movement of Moderates.Khalid said reading and translating the phrase without referring to the person who wrote it would lead to many interpretations and labelling people was a major issue.
He stressed that punishments must be done fairly, adding that according to Islam, hate should not be the reason why someone should be treated unjustly.
“The principle of justice is: Do not punish without giving a chance to the accused to defend themselves.”Khalid revealed that even he did not see eye-to-eye with SIS on a few issues and had argued with them in the past, but he held on to the principle of justice.He also pointed out that humans are prudent beings capable of thinking and acting according to their conscience.
Khalid said that although SIS had its own opinions, it still referred back to Islam and tried to act within its constraints.He also said that SIS had only met with the Selangor Islamic Religious Council (MAIS) in 2012 to discuss its activities, such as helping in Muslim women’s divorce cases and how the fatwa issued portrayed Islam in a bad light.“We want this religious institution to show the highest level of professionalism.
If possible, beat the civil courts, show you are the best.”Khalid pointed out that it was PAS’ intention to see the entire judiciary acting under Islam’s guidance and this incident had resulted in a loss of the people’s confidence towards the faith.