Promoting an understanding of Islam that recognises the principles of
justice, equality, freedom, and dignity within a democratic nation state

The Star - Sharing the Nation - Respect Islam’s diversity (5 April 2015)
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Respect Islam’s diversity

If the Malaysian authorities are serious about countering the threat of IS and other movements, they need the political will to bring radical change to how Islam is understood and taught in schools and universities.

IN the midst of the relentless savagery of Islamic State (IS) group and the descent into chaos in countries such as Yemen, Libya and Syria, Muslim leaders, yet again, have been talking about the need for radical reform of how Islam is understood, and taught in schools and universities.

The latest coming from no one more important to Sunni Islam than the Grand Sheikh of Al-Azhar himself, Ahmed al-Tayeb.

Speaking at an international conference on “Islam and the fight against terrorism” in Mecca in February, the Sheikh attributed the rise of Islamic extremism on “the historical accumulation of extremist tendencies... that grew out of corrupt interpretations of some texts in the Holy Quran and the practices of the Prophet”.

He called for the need to “tackle in our schools and universities this tendency to accuse Muslims of being unbelievers” and for a conference of Muslim scholars to focus on common values that unite Muslims.

At the same conference, the new Saudi King was reported to have said: “Terrorism is a scourge which is the product of extremist ideology. It is a threat to our Muslim nation and to the entire world.”

So if the answer is to bring radical change to how Islam is understood and taught in schools and universities, what is urgently needed now is not more meetings and conferences and summits of Muslim leaders to tackle terrorism, violence and intolerance besetting much of the Muslim world. It is the political will to act.

For a start, these leaders hold power, authority and influence to put an immediate stop to the toxic sermons and pronouncements from so many of their own religious figures and radical extremists who spew hatred and venom towards fellow Muslims and fellow citizens who think, behave, dress, and live differently.

They can start by respecting difference of opinion and building a culture of public debate on matters of religion, and how religion should be used as a source of law and public policy and practice in their own societies.

And this job is actually easy to do, and can be done right now. For there is already much scholarship, new and old, that is out there for the schools and universities to adopt if these Muslim leaders in positions of authority to make the difference is serious about their pronouncements of the dire straits of the Muslim world today and the threat this poses to fellow Muslims and the rest of the world.

Scholars and women’s rights activists engaged in bringing about an understanding of Islam that upholds justice and equality, that eschews violence and terrorism, and that respects diversity and differences of opinion have been working for over 20 years in bringing about change, both in terms of scholarship and activism on the ground.

Unfortunately, much of their scholarship and activism are ignored, at best, or demonised or banned, or at worst, the proponents of change are persecuted and imprisoned because their work towards a compassionate and just Islam do not serve the interest of the power elite and their desperation to remain in power or to gain power.

So can change really happen if those in authority tell the world there is a need for change, but on the ground they continue to persecute their citizens for actually taking action to bring about change? Even if these leaders are yet not able to reconcile themselves to the rich and exciting scholarship that exists in the tradition and in contemporary thought and activism towards a more just and compassionate Islam, they could start by revisiting the Amman Message that they themselves signed in 2006, which denounced extremism, radicalism and fanaticism.

It contains many beautiful passages from the Quran about respecting diversity and differences, about calling others to the path of God with wisdom and beauty, about moderation, justice and not betraying the trust of the people, etc.

The Amman Message also included three basic points that specifically recognized the validity of all eight mazhabs (schools of law) of Sunni, Syiah and Ibadhi Islam; forbade takfir (declaring fellow Muslims as apostates) and set forth the subjective and objective preconditions for the issuing of fatwas, to put a stop to illegitimate fatwas.

Some 552 political and religious leaders from 84 countries endorsed the Amman message and its three points, including Kings, Presidents and Prime Ministers, top scholars from Sunni and Syiah Islam, and the Grand Sheikh of al-Azhar. From Malaysia, then Prime Minister Tun Abdullah Badawi, Opposition Leader Anwar Ibrahim, current Youth and Sports Minister Khairy Jamaluddin and former UIA Rector Tan Sri Prof Dr Mohd Kamal Hassan were among those who signed on.

And yet we see today so many of the signatory countries, including Malaysia, embarked on demonising Syiahs as infidels and declaring fellow Muslims they disagree with as deviants, persecuting, imprisoning and flogging those considered a threat to their authority.

At the same time, these very same states wring their hands and twists themselves into knots about growing threats of violence and extremism that today they realise pose a threat to their hold on power. Counter terrorism research shows that while not all extremism leads to terrorism, all terrorist acts are inspired by extremist narratives.

That ideas and ideologies that sow discord, hate and bigotry contribute to justifying acts of terror, and therefore cannot be left unchallenged in society. It is a waste of time and money for political leaders to gather in Cairo, Mecca, London, Washington, waging war against terrorism, extremism and violence when those very same leaders are waging war against their own citizens who think differently from them.

The mindset that cannot recognise the legitimacy of differences of opinion on how a country should be governed cannot possibly provide an enabling environment where Islamic scholarship can grow and thrive independent of the interest of the ruling elite. If it is “haram”, “unIslamic”, “anti-God”, “anti-Syariah” to question the pronouncements of a Mufti or a Mentri Besar on any Islamic matter, why should we expect those extremists in Syria and Iraq to disobey the commands of their self-appointed caliph? The mindset brainwashed to believe that they have no right to question or to debate the orders and ideas of their religious leaders in Malaysia is the same mindset that obeys the call to behead, burn alive, and kill fellow Muslims and non-Muslims who think and live differently.

It is this demand for absolute certainty and absolute loyalty that breeds fanaticism that can lead to violence and terrorism. It is this belief that those who speak in the name of Islam are accountable to no one that leads to despotism. It is this belief that there is only one understanding of Islam that represents “true” Islam, and anyone with a different opinion is declared deviant and demonised, that breeds a toxic public culture of intolerance, hatred and bigotry.

The billion dollar question is not whether Islam is a just and peaceful religion. For the scholarship already exists to bring about an understanding of Islam that promotes justice and equality, that embraces diversity and differences, that believes in peace, freedom, dignity, that argues for the possibility and necessity for reform to fulfil Muslim demands for democracy, human rights and social justice.

The billion dollar question is whether there is truly the will among the political and religious leaders of the Muslim world to bring about the radical change that is needed in the ways Islam is taught, understood, codified into law and reflected in everyday practices.

Stop wasting money and time on more conferences of Presidents and Prime Ministers and religious leaders to deal with terrorism.

Spend those resources on reforming the education system, reviewing the discriminatory and unjust laws, changing culture and practices that discriminate against women and violate fundamental liberties in the name of religion.

Enough talk and hand wringing. Show us the beef. And if the Malaysian authorities are serious about countering the threat posed by extremist Malaysians who have joined IS and other movements, then they should take immediate steps to reform how Islam is taught in the schools and universities of the country and what messages are being preached over radio, television, during Friday sermons and in those ceramahs by populist preachers all over the country.

For a start, stop telling Muslims and non-Muslims that they have no right to speak about Islam or to question or criticise any Islamic law or debate the hudud law for to do so is to question God’s law. It is a law drafted by mere mortal men, and passed by the Kelantan state assembly made up of men.

Stop pretending just because they speak in God’s name, that they are therefore infallible and beyond reproach. The brazen cynicism with which the hudud football is played between PAS and UMNO in the face of harm this causes to Muslims and to the body politic of Malaysia shows the futility of expecting change to come from the top.

A member of the Kelantan hudud technical committee, proudly declared PAS did an SMS survey of about 77,000 respondents in 29 state constituencies and 91.7% said they supported the hudud. Well, someone else could do a similar survey and pose this question: Do you think the state government should concentrate on implementing the hudud or on rebuilding the state and improving the lives of the people after the devastating floods, end poverty, eradicate corruption, create jobs, build affordable homes, improve healthcare? I bet an overwhelming majority of Kelantanese will opt for the latter.

What is un-Islamic about improving the standard of living of the people you govern? In the end, the question is about niat (intent). If your intent is to do good, to be just, to be kind and compassionate, to respect those who are different from you, then there is plenty in the teachings of Islam to support this.

But if you choose to pull wool over the people’s eyes for your own failures to deliver on the aspirations of the people, to silence debate and criticism, to pretend that your Islam is the only Islam that all should obey, then as the Grand Sheikh of al-Azhar said there are many “corrupt interpretations” of the Quran and the Sunnah of the Prophet to use and abuse to serve your political end.
The Star - Sharing the Nation - Measuring Islamicity yet again (1 March 2015)
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Measuring Islamicity yet again

by zainah anwar
A Syariah Index funded by taxpayers’ money remains unused and unknown to the public while a new study has been launched.

FOR some five years during the premiership of Tun Abdullah Ahmad Badawi, the Malaysian Govern­ment spent millions on a major effort to develop the Maqasid al-Shariah Index to measure the “Islamicity” of a country, both in terms of governance and society.

A team of over 10 international Islamic scholars from diverse parts of the Muslim world, representing all schools of law in Islam, worked with ratings and indexing experts from the Gallup Poll to develop the methodology and measurable indicators for what is supposed to be a rigorous index that can be used to measure how Islamic a country is on the basis of how well it has delivered on the goals of Syariah – to protect and promote life, religion, intellect, family and property.

It seems there was much debate among the scholars on how best to go forward with this huge project. None of them believed that a focus on hudud law and punishments was the way to go to measure how Islamic a country is. But all agreed that nothing but justice can be objective of Islamic law. They developed documents to define the essential features of syariah-compliance governance and embarked on a rigorous exercise over several years to define in scientific, measurable ways what each objective of Syariah should be.

What does protecting and promoting life, religion, family, intellect, and property mean today, and in accordance with Islamic principles? And what are the indicators and ratings indexes that should be used to measure if OIC governments have delivered on the objectives of Syariah to deliver justice, to do good, to advance life and society for all?

For example, in developing the index on protecting life, they looked at data to indicate a govern­ment’s achievement on providing food, housing, healthcare, infrastructure, and other basic needs. The focus was on deliverables to advance the life of citizens.

Except for one public presentation at the International Institute for Advanced Islamic Studies last year, nothing more has been heard of this study, which was led by Imam Feisal Rauf from the Cordoba Institute, and included two Malaysian experts. A book on its methodology and findings was supposed to be published by the end of last year, but until today there is no news of the publication. Malaysia, not surprisingly, came out well among the OIC countries measured by this Index. But now another study has been launched by the current Prime Minister to develop yet another Syariah Index based on the maqasid principles. Why? Has anyone examined the Maqasid Index already developed with millions of ringgit of taxpayers’ money? Why is there a need to launch yet another project to develop a similar index? Do they even know this Maqasid Index was initiated, completed and funded by the same Prime Minister’s Office, just by the last office holder?

The methodology of this new Syariah Index project is already under question. Looking at the survey questionnaire sent out to Umno members, this new project seems like an approval rating exercise.

The 13-page questionnaire made up of 146 questions covers six issues – Islamic law, politics, economics, education, health, culture, infrastructure and environment, and social. For each issue, a list of questions is prepared to measure how well the government has done under the five categories: religion, life, intellect, family and property. Respondents are asked to rate on a scale from strongly disagree to strongly agree.

For example, to measure whether Islamic laws in Malaysia have protected life, it asked three questions: whether zakat, wakaf institutions, Jakim and the state religious departments uphold Islam; whether government “shelter centres” for syariah criminals are effective and whether distribution of zakat is effective.

On protecting intellect, it asked if laws to prevent alcohol consumption are effective, if the quality of human resources is adequate and if information on Islamic law is easily obtainable.

In its measurement on social issues, it asked questions on the effectiveness of enforcement agencies’ efforts to prevent Christianisation activities, the system to determine the qualification of religious preachers, the process of inculcating understanding of fardu ain and fardu kifayah in society, and the adequacy of programmes in mosques throughout the country! And it goes on and on in this random mode of haphazard and arbitrary leading questions being asked of respondents. They were in fact asked to rate if the Malaysian Government has done enough to measure how Syariah-compliant Malaysia is.

I am not sure if the research team has any clue how serious and rigorous a process for deve­loping an index that is meant for global use should be. What is the purpose of setting up yet more committees and spending more money to duplicate what has been done just a few years ago by the very same office of the Prime Minister?Perhaps the team can start by examining the Maqasid Index book manuscript, titled Islamic Government and Rule of Law Index. Have they consulted the experts from the previous team? Why the need for a new team and a new Index? What is the budget for this new initiative?

They could also read the academic papers available online written by two professors at George Washington University, Hossein Askari and Scheherazade Rehman, who have developed the “Islamicity Index” and the “Economic Islamicity Index” and who are now working on their own Maqasid Index. They are also working with the Islamic Development Bank to develop a Syariah-based index of socio-economic development.

Their Islamicity Index mea­sured economic and human development, laws and governance, human and political rights, and international relations in accordance with a set of Islamic principles. For example, for economic and human development, they developed 12 fundamental Islamic economic principles that included indicators on equal economic participation, economic equity, personal property rights and sanctity of contracts, poverty prevention and reduction, etc.

Compare this to some of the indicators on economic achievements in the Malaysian Syariah Index survey: “numbers of Islamic insurance consumers are increasing” (how is a respondent supposed to know that?), “financial institutions practising syariah-­compliant finance principles expand” and “prostitution and LGBT phenomena is not a concern in Malaysia (?)” It is hard to fathom the methodology and logic behind these questions and what they are really trying to measure.

As with so many things to do with religion in this country, much suspicion has been aroused as to whether this effort to ­develop yet another Syariah Index on the heel of one just completed, unused and unknown to the public, is yet another effort to lull Muslims into believing how Syariah-compliant this government is.

Never mind if in the end, it is the Muslims that they proclaim they want to protect and serve who will become the biggest losers in this race to prove who is more Islamic than the other. In Kelantan, we see a state government desperate to implement the Hudud law even while any right-minded citizen would think that it should be focusing its attention on helping the rakyat to rebuild their lives and property and repair the massive damage to infrastructure and goods caused by the devastating floods.

When you have nothing much to showcase for your achievements, press the Islam button and hey presto, the rakyat will be pleased – so they think.

At the federal level, a government that has lost popular support in two successive elections and that is desperate to prevent further regression, again and again turns to race and religion to create a siege mentality that the Malays cannot survive without the dominant ruling party in power.

This is all a charade. The sooner we wake up to the games politicians play with religion in order to stay in power or to win power, the more strategic we can be to bring about the real change that we the rakyat are desperate for.

> Zainah Anwar is the internationally acclaimed co-founder and former executive director of Sisters in Islam (SIS Forum) and the co-­founder and director of Musawah, a global movement for equality and justice in the Muslim family. She is a former member of the Human Rights Commission of Malaysia (Suhakam). The views expressed are entirely the writer’s own.
The Star - Sharing the Nation - Kudos to the G25 (11 January 2015)
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Kudos to the G25

by zainah anwar
Jam Merdeka or Jam Besar which was built in 1957 August 31 contribution from the Multi racial residents from Masjid Tanah Alor Gajah Malacca. It sits along the main road to Tanjung Bidara and Malacca Town.

Jam Merdeka or Jam Besar which was built in 1957 August 31 contribution from the Multi racial residents from Masjid Tanah Alor Gajah Malacca. It sits along the main road to Tanjung Bidara and Malacca Town.

I WROTE a year ago that the people of Malaysia will not be pawns in a dangerous political gamesmanship that is leading this country to the precipice of racial and religious conflict.

If our political leaders have neither the will nor the courage to do what is right for this nation, then we the people will show them. We want to build bridges, live together, understand and respect each other. Too many among us have kept quiet for too long while our democracy was being trampled upon. It is time now to stand up and be counted.

The year 2014 was indeed a very difficult and challenging one for Malaysia. The use and abuse of race and religion for political gain continued unabated and the ensuing gloom and doom about our future was further dampened by the tragedies of MH370 and MH17 and now the worst floods in our history and the crash of Indonesia Air Asia flight QZ8501.

But amid this pain and misfortune, a new sense of hope has been ignited by the G25 letter urging the Prime Minister to take action to bring clarity and vision to end the unresolved disputes on the position and application of Islamic laws in this country.

That 25 prominent Malay establishment figures chose to speak out and express in public their deep concern on the direction this country is taking with regard to Islam within our constitutional democra­tic framework reflects how much is at stake for so many Malaysians. They will keep quiet no more.

The issues raised in the G25 open letter have been festering for decades but have grown increasingly contentious as belligerent supremacist groups and individuals brazenly utter racist and bigoted statements, and as some religious authorities continue to violate the rule of law in their enforcement actions.

And yet the political leadership has shown neither the political will nor courage to respond to these statements and actions that consistently undermine this government’s now hollowed-out 1Malaysia policy and its claim of being a champion of moderation.

Not only that, a government that 20 years ago was strongly opposed to the PAS effort to introduce the Hudud law in Kelantan is today in cahoots with its nemesis to implement a law that is unconstitutional and that generates much fear of injustice and abuses, as has happened in countries where these draconian laws are in place.

Scores of groups and ­individuals have rallied in support of the G25 call for the Prime Minister to show his leadership and vision and engender a rational and informed dialogue on the position and application of Islamic laws in the country.

It is as if the floodgates have opened and more and more moderate voices have found the courage to speak out and break the hegemony of the supremacist groups who purport to speak for the whole Malay Muslim community.

Many Malaysians of all faiths and races are now determined to keep the momentum going, and ensure that the effort of the G25 shall not be in vain.

It is now incumbent upon the political leadership of this country, on both sides of the divide, to take serious steps to rally the nation in a search for equitable and just solutions to the many intractable problems and miscarriage of justice committed in the name of Islam.

To those who claim ignorance of any evidence of abuses, injustice and violations of fundamental liberties in the implementation of Islamic laws in Malaysia, they should start by just Googling “khalwat raids Malaysia”, “body snatching Malaysia”, “transgender Malaysia” – as a start.

And do read the Court of Appeal judgments on the Borders case and the transgender case, and the High Court, the Court of Appeal and Federal Court judgments on the Sisters in Islam book banning case. Do we believe in the Constitution and the rule of law or don’t we?

These cases reflect some of the issues of concerns raised in the G25 letter, not least the areas of conflict and overlap between civil and syariah laws, the lack of awareness, deliberate or otherwise, on the legal limits of the powers of the religious authorities and ­administration of Islamic laws, and the abysmal lack of knowledge on the rich diversity of interpretive texts, juristic opinions and legal concepts in the Islamic tradition that enable reform to take place and equality and justice to be upheld.

It is a gauge of how politicised religion has become in this country that those Muslims who deeply care for their religion, and are gravely concerned about how it is used, abused and distorted to serve short-term political gains, are labelled as anti-God, anti-Syariah, anti-Islam, anti-Malay, anti-monarchy.

If the political leadership still fails to awaken to the gravity of the situation and the sense of drift and foreboding enveloping the nation, then it is the rakyat who must take the lead and show how determined we are to keep this nation together.

And we can start the national dialogue with all of us re-committing ourselves to upholding the principles enshrined in our Federal Constitution, which has served us well over the past 57 years.
It upholds our fundamental liberties, rule of law, separation of powers and recognises the special position of the Malays and the legitimate interests of other communities.

We need to re-pledge our commitment to the Rukunegara, a national ideo­logy drawn up to rebuild a sense of national unity and purpose – of a government and its citizens committed to building a democratic, just and progressive society with a liberal approach to her rich and diverse cultural traditions.

And we should take pride in our long history of living and working together, of embracing and celebrating our diversity, which we have always seen as a source of strength to grow and prosper this nation.

These constitute the bedrock of fundamentals that has kept this nation together. These are the common grounds on which we stand as we search for solutions to the problems we face.
We have much to celebrate and to share. We must get real and ­serious and examine whether the disgruntlements and disenchantments of the different communities and groups are real and supported by facts and figures or whether they are manufactured to serve selfish political, economic and personal interests at the expense of the best interest of the nation.
Let’s focus our resources to find solutions to real documented problems instead of wasting time and energy fanning the flames of racial and religious suspicion and hatred.
How best can we use our Constitutional principles and the vision of Rukunegara to deal with the contentious issues that have beset this country for too long?
There are many Malaysians with the expertise, passion and commitment to devote their time to help this divided nation heal by focusing on finding solutions to the real problems, rather than clinging to ideologies that have led other divided nations to conflict, violence and economic backwardness.
That has not been the history of Malaysia or the future of Malaysia that we want. Let us not undo what our forefathers have built.
> Zainah Anwar is the ­internationally acclaimed and award-winning co-founder and former executive director of Sisters in Islam (SIS Forum) and the co-founder and director of Musawah, a global movement for equality and justice in the Muslim family. She is a former member of the Human Rights Commission of Malaysia (Suhakam). The views expressed are entirely the writer’s own.
The Malay Mail Online: Mosques and temples, yes, but not RTD, group says of new dress code (9 June 2015)
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Mosques and temples, yes, but not RTD, group says of new dress code

KUALA LUMPUR, June 9 — The Road Transport Department’s (RTD) dress code is suitable for houses of worship but not a government agency serving the public, said a critical Joint Action Group for Gender Equality (JAG).

Expressing shock over the dress code that made headlines after a woman complained she was forced to wear a sarong in order to obtain service at the RTD, the coalition of citizens groups said it was not the department’s place to dictate the attire of its customers.

“While it is acceptable to have a dress code for religious houses such as mosques or temples, the government on the other hand, has no place in adopting such stringent dress codes.

“What effect does the implementation of a rigid dress code have on the daily operations of an RTD office? How will it improve or disrupt the services of an RTD office?” the group said in a statement.

The group added that the dress code opens up the public, particularly women, to a new risk of “oppression and abuse” by officials who could now use fashion as a means to deny service to Malaysians.

It said RTD would do better by taking its obsession with how Malaysians dressed and redirecting this towards improving its service to the public. “JAG hopes the government will end this unnecessary moral policing by removing stringent dress codes, especially one that is tied to narrow and arbitrary definitions of modesty.”

Yesterday, a woman’s complaint of being made to wear a sarong, which she described as a “bag”, to cover up her legs when seeking service at one of RTD’s counters went viral on social media and hit media headlines.

Venting her frustration on Facebook, the woman included pictures of her attire — a pink blouse and a pink skirt ending several inches above her knees — that was deemed inappropriate by the department’s officers.

The RTD today apologised to the woman for the “inconvenience” of being made to wear the sarong, which it conceded was not standard procedure, but insisted that the dress code will remain.

After the incident, RTD published its dress code online, which stipulates that visitors prohibited from wearing short skirts, shorts, and sleeveless tops at its offices. The RTD has since come under heavy criticism by government and opposition MPs, who questioned if it is a sign of creeping Islamisation in the civil service. JAG is a coalition of seven primarily women-focussed non-governmental organisations.
JAG Expresses Shock over arbitrary Dress Code Enforcement in Government Offices (9 June 2015)
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JAG Expresses Shock over arbitrary Dress Code Enforcement in Government Offices

9 June 2015

The Joint Action Group for Gender Equality (JAG) expresses shock at the treatment of a woman who was refused service at a Road Transport Department (RTD) office for allegedly dressing in a manner which was too ‘revealing’.

The action of the officers at the RTD office of refusing to provide service and forcing her to wear a sarong was both unwarranted and unprofessional. Such mistreatment is reflective of the growing conservatism in Malaysia which seeks to police the dressing and behavior of ordinary Malaysians. While it is acceptable to have a dress code for religious houses such as mosques or temples, the government on the other hand, has no place in adopting such stringent dress codes.

What effect does the implementation of a rigid dress code have on the daily operations of an RTD office? How will it improve or disrupt the services of an RTD office? It is important to note that nothing in the RTD’s Client Charter even mentions the dressing of customers. Wouldn’t the personnel in government office, in this case the RTD office, be better served focusing on improving the service provided to its customers rather than judging their clients and attempting to strictly enforce a dress code? The obsession with implementing a dress code is based on the assumption that Malaysians are unable to choose their own attire without regulation and policing. Again, women are being victimised for how they dress - this time by being denied access to government services. Whose standard of modesty is being enforced on all Malaysians? How and where will government offices draw the line on what constitutes indecent dress? Will all government offices then begin checking for dress code compliance following this incident? Surely our government resources can be better used to improve the service provided at government offices.

JAG is concerned that the implementation of a dress code has the risk of being another form of oppression and abused by government officers to deny services, especially to female customers. We call on the RTD to prioritize upholding their promise of “friendly, efficient and transparent” service as found within their own Client Charter rather than indulging in pointless policing. JAG hopes the government will end this unnecessary moral policing by removing stringent dress codes, especially one that is tied to narrow and arbitrary definitions of modesty.

Endorsed by the Joint Action for Gender Equality (JAG):

1. All Women’s Action Society (AWAM)
2. Association of Women Lawyers (AWL)
3. Sabah Women’s Action Resource Group (SAWO)
4. Sisters in Islam (SIS)5. Perak Women for Women (PWW)
6. Persatuan Kesedaran Komuniti Selangor (EMPOWER)
7. Women’s Aid Organisation (WAO)
8. Women’s Centre for Change (WCC)
MalaysiaKini : New fund to ease Muslim women's legal cost woes (19 May 2015)
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New fund to ease Muslim women's legal cost woes

The Dr Nik Noriani Nik Badli Shah Legal Aid Fund was today officially launched   aimed at easing the financial burdens faced by Muslim women when seeking redress at the Syariah courts.

“While women’s right may be enshrined in the law, many Muslim women, continue to find it difficult to access their rights due to financial constraints,” said Sisters in Islam (SIS) executive director Ratna Osman.

The fund, which was initiated by SIS, aims to collect an amount of RM500,000 to provide legal aid services to Muslim women to help them bear the costs needed for court proceedings.

Ratna (photo) said although there were already existing legal aid bureaus that offered Muslim women help, many were being turned away as they could not meet the  fees charged by such centres.

“Does it mean that only those with money get justice and those without money are denied justice?” she asked.

She said the money raised through the fund would be channelled to SIS' legal advisory body, Telenisa, which provided guidance on marriage procedures, divorce, polygamy as well as children maintenance and custody according to Islamic law.

Telenisa, established in 2003, has provided free legal advisory services to approximately 10,200 Muslim clients to date.

Asked later if SIS would also help bear the cost of hiring Syariah lawyers, Ratna said this could be  is possible if the funds collected were sufficient.

Named after Towering Malaysian

The fund is named in memory of the late Nik Noriani, who served as an assistant parliamentary draftsman and a deputy commissioner for Law Revision in 1986.

She also played a crucial role in the drafting of the Violence Act 1994 during her tenure at the Attorney-General’s Chambers.

Present at the launching of the Dr Nik Noriani Nik Badli Shah Legal Aid Fund  was the late Nik Noriani’s uncle, Nik Mohd Amin who later donated RM100,000 on behalf of Noriani's estate.

Activist Marina Mahathir (photo), who was present at the launch, commended SIS’ initiative in helping women facing financial hurdles in their pursuit of justice.

“Men don’t have the same problem [..] women do because of our care-giving role. Hopefully. this fund will help them to make their lives easier,” she said when met after the function.

Those who wish to contribute to the fund are advised to contact SIS Forum's Hazline Mahmood at for further information.
The Dr Nik Noriani Nik Badli Shah Legal Aid Fund (19 May 2015)
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Sisters in Islam (SIS) wishes to express our immense gratitude at the official launch of the Dr. Nik Noriani Nik Badli Shah Legal Aid Fund. We established this fund with the hope that it will help ease some of the financial burden faced by Muslim women when they seek redress in the Syariah Courts.

This fund is named in memory of our beloved Dr. Nik Noriani Nik Badli Shah, in celebration of her life, her many deeds and contributions. She passed away on 2nd January 2015, however, her legacy shall endure as we commemorate her persistent pursuit of justice and equality in the family.

Dr. Nik Noriani was a brilliant legal mind and played a crucial role in the drafting of the Domestic Violence Act 1994 during her tenure at the Attorney – General’s Chambers. Between 1986 and 1996, she served first as an Assistant Parliamentary Draftsmen and later as a Deputy Commissioner for Law Revision.

Nik’s expertise in the field of Islamic jurisprudence led to her appointment as a member of the Syariah Technical Committee, which was tasked with reviewing the discriminatory amendments made to the Islamic Family Law in 2005. Nik’s insistence at realising an Islamic Family law that better reflected the Quranic values of justice and equality can be seen in her many writings. She authored several books and articles, mostly in the area of Islamic and comparative family law and justice. They include Family law: Maintenance and other financial rights (1993); Marriage and Divorce under Islamic Law (1998); and Marriage and Divorce: Law Reform within Islamic Framework (2012). Her works continue to be used as a source of reference among practitioners and scholars of law, not only in Malaysia but also in countries such as Pakistan where her books have been translated into Urdu.

Nik’s PhD thesis on “Comparative Concepts of Justice in Islamic and Western Legal-Political Thought: A Dual Heritage Affecting Gender Justice In Malaysia” earned her a distinction from the International Islamic University Malaysia (IIUM) and was described as among the best in 15 years. It was her vast knowledge of Islam, law, history, Muslim family laws, legal systems, and gender justice that fuelled her outrage against any injustice done in the name of Islam.

We established the Dr. Nik Noriani Nik Badli Shah Legal Aid Fund with the aim of helping women who would otherwise be unable to access justice. While women’s rights may be enshrined in the law, many women continue to find it difficult to access their rights due to financial constraints. The initial cost of filing a case in court can reach up to RM250. This does not include any additional costs that are incurred while the case is ongoing in court. Many women are unable to shoulder these costs, particularly those who are poor and/or have many dependents, and eventually abandon any attempt at seeking redress.

SIS has always believed that access to justice should not be limited to those who can afford it. We hope that with the establishment of this fund, we can at least help ease some of the financial burden women face when attempting to access justice.

It is in this vein too, that we urge the authorities to improve the efficiency of the Syariah Courts so that women can move on with their lives. Many women face multiple delays, which are compounded by complicated and bureaucratic court procedures that require them to travel up and down to court, for years at times. The services offered by the existing legal aid bureaus are simply insufficient to facilitate a quick resolution. Justice delayed is justice denied.

Nik, thank you for everything. May your legacy continue to assist those who need it the most. It was narrated from Abu Hurairah (RA) that Allah’s Messenger (PBUH) said, “When a man (or a woman) dies, all his/her good deeds come to an end, except three: on-going charity, beneficial knowledge of the deceased and righteous son/ daughter(s) who will pray for the deceased.” (Sahih Muslim)

To contribute to the fund, kindly find the details as follows:
  • Cheques are made payable to SIS FORUM (MALAYSIA) and send to:
SIS Forum (Malaysia)
No. 4, Lorong 11/8E

46200 Petaling Jaya

Selangor Darul Ehsan
  • Telegraphic Transfer (TT) to our bank account with the following details:
Bank Name and Address: CIMB Bank Berhad (Jalan Gasing).
No. 111 & 113, Jalan Gasing 46000 Petaling Jaya, Selangor Darul Ehsan, Malaysia.

CIMB Bank No: 8003395345

Swift Code: CIBBMYKL

Sisters in Islam

19 May 2015
Kenyataan Akhbar Sisters in Islam Berkenaan Perasmian "Tabung Bantuan Guaman Dr. Nik Noriani Nik Badli Shah" (19 May 2015)
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Sisters in Islam (SIS) ingin melahirkan rasa syukur terhadap pelancaran dan perasmian Tabung Bantuan Guaman Dr Nik Noriani Nik Badli Shah. SIS berharap tabung ini dapat membantu meringankan beban pelanggan Telenisa khususnya wanita dan ibu-ibu tunggal sewaktu dalam proses pemfailan mahkamah dalam perjuangan menuntut keadilan.

Tabung ini dinamakan sempena memperingati jasa dan sumbangan Dr Nik Noriani Nik Badli Shah yang telah kembali ke rahmatullah pada 2 Januari 2015. Ia bertujuan untuk meneruskan legasi perjuangan beliau bersama SIS bagi menegakkan keadilan di dalam sistem perundangan keluarga Islam. Beliau merupakan seorang cendekiawan SIS yang telah memainkan peranan penting di dalam penggubalan Akta Keganasan Rumahtangga 1994 ketika beliau masih berkhidmat di Jabatan Peguam Negara.

Dr Nik Noriani pernah berkhidmat di Jabatan Peguam Negara dari 1986 hingga 1996 sebagai Penolong Penggubal Undang-Undang dan Timbalan Pesuruhjaya Penyemak Undang-Undang. Kepakaran beliau dalam bidang perundangan Islam diakui sehingga beliau dilantik oleh Peguam Negara pada tahun 2005 sebagai salah seorang Ahli Jawatankuasa Teknikal Syariah bagi menyemak dan mengkaji semula undang-undang Syariah di Malaysia.

Usaha Dr Nik Noriani yang konsisten dalam mereformasikan sistem perundangan keluarga Islam dapat dilihat melalui karya penulisan beliau seperti Undang-Undang Keluarga, Nafkah dan Hak-Hak Kewangan Lain (1993), Pekahwinan dan Perceraian di bawah Undang-Undang Islam (1998) dan Marriage and Divorce: Law Reform within Islamic Framework (2012). Penulisan beliau masih lagi digunakan sebagai rujukan pengamal undang-undang dan juga teks pengajian mahasiswa undang-undang bukan sahaja di Malaysia malah sehingga ke Pakistan di mana buku beliau telah diterjemahkan ke bahasa Urdu.

Tesis PhD beliau yang bertajuk “Comparative Concepts of Justice in Islamic and Western Legal-Political Thought: A Dual Heritage Affecting Gender Justice in Malaysia” telah diiktiraf sebagai tesis terbaik dalam tempoh 15 tahun oleh International Institute of Islamic Thought and Civilisation (ISTAC), Universiti Islam Antarabangsa Malaysia (UIA). Tidak dapat dinafikan bahawa Dr Nik Noriani merupakan seorang yang sangat berilmu pengetahuan dan tidak pernah lesu berjuang untuk keadilan bagi wanita. Pemergian beliau sememangnya satu kehilangan besar khususnya bagi Sisters in Islam dan umat Islam secara amnya.

Perasmian Tabung Bantuan Guaman Dr Nik Noriani Nik Badli Shah ini diharap dapat membantu lebih ramai wanita dan ibu-ibu tunggal menuntut keadilan di dalam sistem perundangan Syariah. Walaupun hak-hak wanita termaktub di dalam undang-undang, malangnya, beban kewangan untuk melalui proses mahkamah merupakan cabaran yang dihadapi oleh ramai wanita. Sebagai contoh, kos permulaan untuk memfailkan kes di mahkamah sahaja boleh mencecah sehingga RM250. Ini tidak termasuk kos-kos lain yang harus ditanggung ketika kes sedang berjalan. Jumlah ini sudah tentu merupakan satu beban besar pada wanita, terutama sekali ibu tunggal yang berpendapatan rendah dan mempunyai tanggungan yang ramai. SIS berpendirian bahawa akses kepada keadilan tidak patut terhad hanya pada yang berkemampuan dari segi kewangan sahaja. Oleh yang demikian, tabung ini merupakan salah satu cara untuk membantu mendapatkan akses kepada keadilan buat wanita yang terpaksa mengharungi proses ke Mahkamah Syariah.

Kami menggesa supaya pihak berkuasa membaikpulih dan menaiktaraf sistem pentadbiran dan perundangan Syariah untuk meringankan beban wanita yang melalui proses mendapatkan keadilan di Mahkamah Syariah. Ramai wanita terpaksa menanggung beban dengan prosedur yang merumitkan sehingga terpaksa turun naik ke mahkamah bertahun-tahun lamanya. Beban birokrasi serta perkhidmatan bantuan guaman sedia ada tidak memadai bagi wanita untuk mendapatkan keadilan dengan segera.

Perubahan positif mampu dilakukan seperti di Mahkamah Syariah Terengganu yang telah menaiktaraf sistem e-syariah dengan menyelaraskan proses di mana maklumat berkenaan perbicaraan dan perintah boleh diakses secara online. Ini menjimatkan masa dan memudahkan ramai wanita dalam proses menuntut keadilan. SIS amat berharap agar konsep keadilan dan kesetaraan gender dapat diterapkan serta dilaksanakan dalam usaha untuk membaikpulih sistem pentadbiran dan perundangan Syariah, sebagaimana yang telah diperjuangkan oleh Dr Nik Noriani Nik Badli Shah sepanjang hayat beliau.

Kami berharap Tabung Bantuan Guaman Dr Nik Noriani Nik Badli Shah ini mampu meneruskan kesinambungan perjuangan Allahyarham Dr Nik Noriani dan kami berdoa semoga sumbangan daripada tabung ini menjadi amal jariah berterusan buat Allahyarham.

Daripada Abu Hurairah R.A bahawa Nabi SAW bersabda apabila mati seorang anak Adam, maka terputuslah amalnya kecuali tiga perkara; sedekah jariah, ilmu yang bermanfaat dan anak yang soleh yang mendoakannya (Hadis Riwayat Muslim).

Kak Nik, terima kasih di atas segala-galanya.

Jika anda berminat untuk menghulurkan sumbangan kepada dana ini, anda boleh melakukannya melalui cara-cara berikut:
1. Cek di atas nama SIS FORUM (MALAYSIA) dan dihantar kepada
SIS Forum (Malaysia)
No. 4, Jalan 11/8E
46200 Petaling Jaya
Selangor Darul Ehsan Malaysia

2. Pemindahan Telegrafik/Telegraphic Transfer (TT) ke akaun bank kami dengan maklumat berikut:


Nama dan Alamat Bank: CIMB Bank Berhad (Jalan Gasing) No. 111 & 113, Jalan Gasing 46000 Petaling Jaya, Selangor Darul Ehsan, Malaysia.

Nombor Bank CIMB: 8003395345 Kod Swift: CIBBMYKL

Sisters in Islam 19 Mei 2015
JAG : Malaysia must act now to save human lives, protect victims of trafficking (18 May 2015)
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Joint Action Group for Gender Equality

Press Statement, 18 May 2015

Malaysia must act now to save human lives, protect victims of trafficking

For more information, contact:
Sumitra Visvanathan / 03 7957 0636

We are appalled at the impending loss of life, trauma and serious human rights violations affecting the thousands of trafficked migrants, stateless persons and refugees now being ping-ponged by sea between Thailand, Malaysia and Indonesia. This is a human crisis of epic proportions, taking a devastating toll on the women, men and children still on the boats. Malaysia must act now to save and protect human lives.

This human crisis is spiraling due to government inaction. All three countries are simply eyeballing each other and none are willing to act with the immediacy that the situation demands: allow the people to disembark and provide them emergency aid. The three countries including Myanmar must be take responsibility by doing what is the most needed for the victims of trafficking.

We must show respect for human lives, for human dignity and human rights. The inaction demonstrates an unforgiveable disregard for the time honored international obligation, as codified by the United Nations Convention of the Law of the Sea, to rescue distressed people at sea and to extend protection to people fleeing persecution. These obligations are enshrined as binding on all countries.

As a state party, we remind Malaysia of CEDAW’s General Recommendation 32, which requests state parties to “recognize that trafficking is part and parcel of gender- related persecution, with the result that women, girls and children who are victims of trafficking or who fear becoming victims should be informed of and effectively enjoy the right of access to asylum procedures without discrimination or any preconditions.”

Victims of trafficking have the right to care and protection guaranteed under our Anti-Trafficking in Persons and Anti-Smuggling of Migrants Act 2007. We recognize the initiatives to identify and prosecute traffickers and to demolish their criminal syndicates. Yet, under our laws, these initiatives must be victim-centered and ensure victims of trafficking are treated humanely and accorded their due rights. The conditions on the boats, the coercion, abandonment and horrific abuses committed by the traffickers are being increasingly documented through interviews with survivors. It places all people on the boats squarely within the protections guaranteed victims under our Anti-Trafficking in Persons legal framework. We must activate the Act’s victim-centered care and protection systems with a rights based approach as a matter of priority.

The people who embarked on this dangerous journey are not criminals. Many of them are in search of protection from persecution. Instead, they have been exploited and abused by trafficking syndicates for profit. In these boats are many women, men and children who have already felt the bitterness of protracted and serious violations of their fundamental rights in Myanmar, and the violations have continued to be heaped on them throughout their journey in search of protection. 10 person have already died in the boat with no water and food. It must end now.

This human crisis confronts three key ASEAN member states at a time when ASEAN has declared itself people-oriented and people-centred, and has asserted a commitment to promote and protect human rights and respect for fundamental freedoms.

In times such as this, it is crucial for the member states to look pass the non-interference policy that exist within ASEAN, so they can come together to look into solutions to address this heinous crime of human trafficking – a crime against humanity. Ultimately, this is a critical test whether ASEAN is truly able to live up to its commitments.

The Joint Action Group for Gender Equality (JAG):
Women’s Aid Organisation (WAO)
Women’s Centre for Change (WCC) Penang
All Women’s Action Society (AWAM)
Association of Women Lawyers (AWL)
Persatuan Kesedaran Komuniti Selangor (EMPOWER)
Sisters in Islam
Pemerkosaan Dalam Perkahwinan Tidak Islamik (27 April 2015)
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Kenyataan Akhbar
Pemerkosaan Dalam Perkahwinan Tidak Islamik

Sisters in Islam (SIS) memandang serius kenyataan-kenyataan yang dikeluarkan mutakhir ini berikutan kempen “Without Consent” yang dilancarkan oleh Parti Tindakan Demokratik (DAP) yang cuba mempertahankan pemerkosaan dalam perkahwinan atas nama Islam.

Sebagai agama yang sangat menyantuni wanita, perhubungan suami isteri di dalam Islam di bina atas dasar kasih-sayang dan hormat menghormati sebagaimana yang dinyatakan oleh Al Quran di dalam Surah Al Ruum ayat 21:

Dan di antara tanda-tanda kekuasaan-Nya ialah Dia menciptakan untukmu isteri dari jenismu sendiri, supaya kamu cenderung dan merasa tenteram kepadanya, dan dijadikan-Nya di antara kamu berdua rasa kasih dan sayang. Sesungguhnya pada yang demikian itu benar-benar terdapat tanda-tanda bagi kaum yang berfikir’

Islam memberikan hak-hak yang sama rata di antara suami dan isteri di dalam perkahwinan dan menyangkut soal perhubungan seksual, Al Quran menyatakan di dalam Surah Al Nisaa’ ayat 19: ‘…dan gaulilah isterimu dengan cara yang makruf...’

Imam Al Ghazali sewaktu menyatakan tentang tanggungjawab suami terhadap isteri memetik firman Allah S.W.T di dalam Surah Al Nisaa’ ayat 36 yang menyatakan : “…Dan berbuat baiklah kepada dua orang ibu bapa, saudara mara, anak-anak yatim,  orang-orang miskin, jiran yang dekat dan jiran yang jauh, teman sejawat, ibnu sabil, dan hamba sahaya kamu…” dan beliau menyatakan bahawa ‘teman sejawat’ yang dirujuk oleh Allah di dalam ayat tersebut bermaksud isteri. Beliau selanjutnya menyatakan bahawa menyantuni isteri dengan baik bukan sahaja bermaksud tidak menyakiti mereka secara fizikal, bahkan juga secara emosional.

Pemaksaan kepada isteri untuk melakukan hubungan seksual bukan sahaja satu penderaan fizikal bahkan ia merupakan penderaan emosil yang dilarang oleh Islam.

Kenyataan-kenyataan yang membenarkan pemerkosaan dalam perkahwinan adalah bercanggah dengan objektif Al-Quran yang menjamin kesetaraan hubungan antara suami dan isteri berdasarkan semangat mawaddah wa rahmah.

Sisters in Islam
27 April 2015
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