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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

Musings by MARINA MAHATHIR

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?

By JAMILAH IBRAHIM
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.

https://www.malaysiakini.com/news/238790
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

Musings
 By MARINA MAHATHIR

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.

Salam.
The Malay Mail - Muslim dog owner’s remand extreme, born of paranoia (2 August 2013)
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Muslim dog owner’s remand extreme, born of paranoia

By Melissa Chi and Syed Jaymal Zahid
August 02, 2013


PETALING JAYA, Aug 2 — Datuk Zaid Ibrahim has called the decision to remand a Muslim woman over an Aidilfitri video which featured her dogs a result of paranoia and suggested that Muslims were “protected species” in Malaysia.

Besides the former Cabinet minister, a number of other Malay-Muslim community leaders have also labelled the action excessive.

“You can investigate any case but there is no need to remand, no need to detain people unless it’s absolutely necessary. This is not a hardcore crime,” Zaid told The Malay Mail Online yesterday, referring to the arrest and detention of Maznah Mohd Yusof on Wednesday on sedition claims.

The former de facto law minister during the Abdullah administration denounced the police action on the 38-year-old woman as excessive in relation to her purported offence.

He observed that Maznah had been treated like a criminal who posed a serious security threat to the country when she had yet to be charged, let alone convicted by a court of law.

“I think they have taken a high-handed approach... everyone is paranoid,” said the former lawyer who once ran the country’s largest legal firm, Zaid Ibrahim & Co.

“Everybody is influenced by public opinion and everybody is scared to do the right thing,” he added.

The 62-year-old took to Twitter yesterday following the announcement of a two-day remand order for Maznah, ostensibly to aid in further investigation under the Sedition Act and section 298A of the Penal Code, which includes a variety offences, namely causing “disharmony, disunity, or feelings of enmity, hatred or ill-will, or prejudicing, etc, the maintenance of harmony or unity, on grounds of religion.”

Without naming anyone, Zaid posted a series of tweets where he hit out at the authorities over what he perceived to be a trigger-happy reaction to issues concerning Muslims and Islam.

“Muslims in Malaysia dont do naughty things. So anything outside the norm; like having dogs as pet; or buying 4 digits not tolerated.

“They are treated like criminals; remanded; become subject of speeches by top leaders. Muslims are protected species,” he posted in a series of tweets on his Twitter account, @zaidibrahim.

He added: “Malay Rulers used to keep dogs as pets. Those days Islam was not under threat and Muslims were human and allowed to be such.”

Several other Malay-Muslim community leaders The Malay Mail Online spoke with shared similar concerns, saying the authorities were going overboard by restraining for three days a Muslim woman who had recorded walking and bathing her three dogs as the “Takbir Raya”, or Muslim call to prayer that is traditionally reserved for the first day of Hari Raya Aidilfitri, played in the background.

PAS MP Khalid Samad said that while the authorities have a right to act on those who could inflame religious tensions, a remand order was necessary only if Maznah had showed she had intent to do so.

“She doesn’t need to be remanded and detained, but there must be action from the authorities if it was her intention to provoke religious sentiments.

“Unless you believe she will run away,” he said.

PKR lawmaker Nurul Izzah Anwar also voiced her opinion that the remand order to be “completely unnecessary” to aid the police investigation.

She said police resources would have been better used to deal with the alarming spate of increasingly violent crimes that pose a serious security threat within the country.

“I believe it’s high time that we addressed real crime and actual threats — and stop allowing bigots to dictate national agenda.

“The paranoia is due to a rudderless leadership by DS Najib Razak,” the second-term Lembah Pantai MP told The Malay Mail Online in a text message.

She also blamed the latest religious storm on the prime minister.

“I believe he can set the national tone and agenda. As such it is a self-made paranoia by the powers-that-be. Don’t blame society when authorities lack independence and remain susceptible to political influence,” she said.

Sisters In Islam (SIS) programme manager Suri Kempe also condemned Maznah’s remand as excessive and a harassment tactic among hardline religious groups to pressure the dog trainer.

“This excessive reaction does not reflect Malaysia’s much touted moderation, and feeds into the rhetoric of those who preach intolerance and narrow-minded fundamentalism,” she said.

Maznah was reported by news site Mynewshub.com on Tuesday as saying that she made the video in 2010 to show that dogs are not “haram” (forbidden) as widely believed, and that Muslims could keep canines as pets.

She was arrested late Wednesday evening and taken to the federal police headquarters in Bukit Aman, Kuala Lumpur before she was sent to Segamat in Johor where the first police complaints against her three-year-old video were filed, ostensibly to aid in further investigation.

A Segamat magistrate’s court had issued a two-day remand order, which expires today.

PETALING JAYA, Aug 2 — Datuk Zaid Ibrahim has called the decision to remand a Muslim woman over an Aidilfitri video which featured her dogs a result of paranoia and suggested that Muslims were “protected species” in Malaysia.

Besides the former Cabinet minister, a number of other Malay-Muslim community leaders have also labelled the action excessive.

“You can investigate any case but there is no need to remand, no need to detain people unless it’s absolutely necessary. This is not a hardcore crime,” Zaid told The Malay Mail Online yesterday, referring to the arrest and detention of Maznah Mohd Yusof on Wednesday on sedition claims.

The former de facto law minister during the Abdullah administration denounced the police action on the 38-year-old woman as excessive in relation to her purported offence.

He observed that Maznah had been treated like a criminal who posed a serious security threat to the country when she had yet to be charged, let alone convicted by a court of law.

“I think they have taken a high-handed approach... everyone is paranoid,” said the former lawyer who once ran the country’s largest legal firm, Zaid Ibrahim & Co.

“Everybody is influenced by public opinion and everybody is scared to do the right thing,” he added.

The 62-year-old took to Twitter yesterday following the announcement of a two-day remand order for Maznah, ostensibly to aid in further investigation under the Sedition Act and section 298A of the Penal Code, which includes a variety offences, namely causing “disharmony, disunity, or feelings of enmity, hatred or ill-will, or prejudicing, etc, the maintenance of harmony or unity, on grounds of religion.”

Without naming anyone, Zaid posted a series of tweets where he hit out at the authorities over what he perceived to be a trigger-happy reaction to issues concerning Muslims and Islam.

“Muslims in Malaysia dont do naughty things. So anything outside the norm; like having dogs as pet; or buying 4 digits not tolerated.

“They are treated like criminals; remanded; become subject of speeches by top leaders. Muslims are protected species,” he posted in a series of tweets on his Twitter account, @zaidibrahim.

He added: “Malay Rulers used to keep dogs as pets. Those days Islam was not under threat and Muslims were human and allowed to be such.”

Several other Malay-Muslim community leaders The Malay Mail Online spoke with shared similar concerns, saying the authorities were going overboard by restraining for three days a Muslim woman who had recorded walking and bathing her three dogs as the “Takbir Raya”, or Muslim call to prayer that is traditionally reserved for the first day of Hari Raya Aidilfitri, played in the background.

PAS MP Khalid Samad said that while the authorities have a right to act on those who could inflame religious tensions, a remand order was necessary only if Maznah had showed she had intent to do so.

“She doesn’t need to be remanded and detained, but there must be action from the authorities if it was her intention to provoke religious sentiments.
“Unless you believe she will run away,” he said.

PKR lawmaker Nurul Izzah Anwar also voiced her opinion that the remand order to be “completely unnecessary” to aid the police investigation.

She said police resources would have been better used to deal with the alarming spate of increasingly violent crimes that pose a serious security threat within the country.

“I believe it’s high time that we addressed real crime and actual threats — and stop allowing bigots to dictate national agenda.

“The paranoia is due to a rudderless leadership by DS Najib Razak,” the second-term Lembah Pantai MP told The Malay Mail Online in a text message.
She also blamed the latest religious storm on the prime minister.

“I believe he can set the national tone and agenda. As such it is a self-made paranoia by the powers-that-be. Don’t blame society when authorities lack independence and remain susceptible to political influence,” she said.

Sisters In Islam (SIS) programme manager Suri Kempe also condemned Maznah’s remand as excessive and a harassment tactic among hardline religious groups to pressure the dog trainer.

“This excessive reaction does not reflect Malaysia’s much touted moderation, and feeds into the rhetoric of those who preach intolerance and narrow-minded fundamentalism,” she said.

Maznah was reported by news site Mynewshub.com on Tuesday as saying that she made the video in 2010 to show that dogs are not “haram” (forbidden) as widely believed, and that Muslims could keep canines as pets.

She was arrested late Wednesday evening and taken to the federal police headquarters in Bukit Aman, Kuala Lumpur before she was sent to Segamat in Johor where the first police complaints against her three-year-old video were filed, ostensibly to aid in further investigation.

A Segamat magistrate’s court had issued a two-day remand order, which expires today.
The Malay Mail - PAS MP wants dialogue before fatwa on sports (2 August 2013)
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PAS MP wants dialogue before fatwa on sports

By Liyana Shazreen
August 02, 2013
By Liyana Shazreen
August 02, 2013

PETALING JAYA, Aug 2 — Islam is not about banning sports, PAS lawmaker Mohamed Hanipa Maidin (picture) said in the wake of a brewing storm over Muslim women who display their bodies or aurat in competitive events.

The Sepang MP also urged the authorities to engage in dialogue with sports organisers before deciding to ban Muslim women from certain events that reveal their aurat following the National Fatwa Council’s proposal to so at their meeting in September.

“We have to be very slow in issuing a fatwa,” Hanipa told The Malay Mail Online following debate on whether Muslim women should be barred from taking part in competitive sporting events like swimming and rhythmic gymnastics.

“Any sports involving Muslim aurat is against Islamic teaching but it does not mean Islam bans the sport per se,” he added in a recent text message.

Conservative Islamic scholars adhere to a strict dress code for Muslims, forbidding them from displaying certain parts of their body, or aurat, in public.

For women, this includes the hair and most of the rest of her body while for men, it is generally from the navel to the knees.

Other Muslim scholars preach a more pragmatic approach on the application of Islamic law on a person’s dress code.

Hanipa said Muslim women who participate in sports competition should have the chance to cover their aurat by dressing for the occasion in accordance with Islamic teaching before being summarily being forced to quit such games.

“Rather than issuing fatwa it is more prudent to have [an] engagement or dialogue with the organiser,” said the PAS central committee member.

The fatwa on sports was triggered by a similar Islamic edict to bar Muslim women from beauty pageants that reignited an outcry over the Miss Malaysia World 2013 contest recently.

The news of a possible ban on Muslim women athletes has sparked an uproar among sports officials with some arguing that such a move would “kill” the only few sporting events in which Malaysia excel.

Others have pointed out that a fatwa against Muslim women in gymnastics and swimming could lead to future bans in other sporting events.

Youth and Sports Minister Khairy Jamaluddin gave his assurance earlier this week that the federal government will not agree to such a fatwa.

“I don’t think this is a good idea at all. Sporting competitions are different from beauty contests. I would object to any banning of sporting events,” Khairy told The Malay Mail Online.

Khairy’s position on the matter could also highlight the concerns raised by a Muslim women group over the binding powers of such fatwa.

Sisters In Islam (SIS) had recently suggested for fatwas to be deliberated by a legislative body before they are made binding on Muslims after it deemed the current procedure “un-Islamic and undemocratic”.

It condemned the dropping of four Muslim candidates from the Miss Malaysia World 2013 contest because they purportedly violated a 1996 fatwa, which deems Muslim participation in beauty pageants sinful.

Their disqualification, the group said, raises concerns on the “over-reach” of a religious edict or fatwa beyond their original intent.

It further said its greatest concern was on the automatic enforcement of fatwa as law without being subjected to stringent scrutiny by a legislative body like Parliament or a state assembly.

After a fatwa is approved by a state executive council and a Sultan, the edict only needs to be gazetted before it is enforced into a religious law.

“It is not tabled for debate in the legislative body Any violation of the fatwa is a criminal offence. Any effort to dispute or to give an opinion contrary to the fatwa is also a criminal offence.

“Such provisions have no basis in the Quran and historical practices of Islam and violate several articles in the Federal Constitution,” SIS said.

PAS MP wants dialogue before fatwa on sports
Malay Mail - Let Parliament, state assemblies legislate fatwas, Muslim women group suggest (22 July 2013)
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Let Parliament, state assemblies legislate fatwas, Muslim women group suggest

JULY 22, 2013

PETALING JAYA, July 22 – A Muslim women group suggested today that fatwas be deliberated by a legislative body before they are made binding on Islam’s faithful, calling the current procedure “un-Islamic and undemocratic”.

In a statement here, Sisters in Islam (SIS) condemned the dropping of four Muslim candidates from the Miss Malaysia World 2013 contest because they purportedly violated a 1996 fatwa, which deems Muslim participation in beauty pageants sinful.

Their disqualification, the group said, raises concerns on the “over-reach” of a religious edict or fatwa beyond their original intent.

“The 1996 fatwa exists as an attempt to control the public conduct of Muslims in terms of dress and indecency, specifically Muslim women,” SIS pointed out in a press statement here.

“Yet, despite the organisers’ assurance that the contestants will not be required to wear swimming costumes and instead be wearing long pants, their participation was still deemed ‘sinful’.

“How, where and on what basis do the religious authorities draw the line as to what is indecent dress or indecent behaviour? Do long pants now fall in the category of ‘sinful’ and indecent attire?” the group asked.

Organisers of Miss Malaysia 2013 were forced to drop the four participants after Federal Territories mufti Datuk Wan Zaidi Wan Teh labelled their participation “sinful” in view of the 1996 fatwa banning pageant participation among Muslim women.

According to Wan Zahidi, the fatwa prohibiting Muslim women from joining beauty pageants was issued and gazetted under the Federal Territories Islamic Administration Act in February 1996.

The move drew protest from one of the contestant, Wafa Johanna de Korte, who told Utusan Malaysia’s Sunday edition that the decision to drop them was unnecessary as other Muslim countries like Indonesia allows Muslim women to participate in pageants.

Backing the protest, SIS also raised the issue of gender bias in the issuance of such fatwas and asked if the same such edict could be issued to bar Muslim men from participating in body-building contests.

“Does not the Constitution say all are equal before the law and that there can be no discrimination on the basis of gender?

“We are not saying the simple solution is to ban all such activities, but to raise the point of inconsistency and double-standards,” the group argued.

It said its greatest concern was particularly on how fatwas have the automatic force of law without being subjected to stringent scrutiny by a legislative body like Parliament or a state assembly.

After a fatwa is approved by a state executive council and a Sultan, the edict only needs to be gazetted before it is enforced into a religious law.

“It is not tabled for debate in the legislative body Any violation of the fatwa is a criminal offence. Any effort to dispute or to give an opinion contrary to the fatwa is also a criminal offence.

“Such provisions have no basis in the Quran and historical practices of Islam and violate several articles in the Federal Constitution,” the group said.

The process, SIS added, ultimately allowed fatwas to be used as a tool to “undemocratically pass laws that infringe on our fundamental liberties.”

To put an end to this, the Islamic group suggested that each fatwa be made to obtain approval from a legislative body before it can come into effect.

This, it said, is to ensure that the principle of “syura” in Islam is fulfilled.

“Such open debate will also invite public participation in the making of legislation that affect fundamental liberties,” SIS added.

In recent years, the National Fatwa Council, the country’s highest Islamic body, had also issued rulings forbidding Muslims from using botox and banned women from exhibiting tomboy behaviour, which it defined as behaving or dressing like men or taking part in lesbian sex.

The council came under heavy scrutiny for its proposal to ban yoga after a university lecturer advised people to stop practising it for fear that it could deviate from the teachings of Islam.

The move met protests from progressive Muslim women groups like the SIS who deemed the fatwas regressive while observers claimed it highlighted the worrying trend of overt Islamisation in Malaysia.
FMT - Procedure legislating fatwas un-Islamic (23 July 2013)
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Procedure legislating fatwas un-Islamic
July 23, 2013

FMT LETTER: From Sisters In Islam, via e-mail

The recent disqualification of four Miss Malaysia World 2013 beauty contest finalists on the basis that their participation is ‘sinful’ and in contravention of a 1996 fatwa banning Muslims from participating in beauty pageants, raises concerns about the over-reach of fatwas beyond their original intent.

The 1996 fatwa exists as an attempt to control the public conduct of Muslims in terms of dress and indecency, specifically Muslim women. Yet, despite the organisers’ assurance that the contestants will not be required to wear swimming costumes and instead be wearing long pants, their participation was still deemed ‘sinful’. How, where and on what basis do the religious authorities draw the line as to what is indecent dress or indecent behaviour? Do long pants now fall in the category of ‘sinful’ and indecent attire?

There is also the issue of gender bias. If there can be a fatwa that prevents Muslim women from taking part in a beauty contest, then by the same argument should not there be a fatwa on Muslim men taking part in a body building contest? Does not the Constitution say all are equal before the law and that there can be no discrimination on the basis of gender? We are not saying the simple solution is to ban all such activities, but to raise the point of inconsistency and double-standard.

However, what is of greater concern to Sisters in Islam (SIS) is the larger question of how gazetted fatwas have the automatic force of law without going through the legislative process, and are used as a tool to undemocratically pass laws that infringe on our fundamental liberties. After approval by the State Executive Council and the Sultan, a fatwa only needs to be gazetted to become law.

It is not tabled for debate in the legislative body. Any violation of the fatwa is a criminal offence. Any effort to dispute or to give an opinion contrary to the fatwa is also a criminal offence. Such provisions have no basis in the Quran and historical practices of Islam and violate several articles in the Federal Constitution.

Constitutionally, only Parliament has the legislative authority to make laws in Malaysia at the federal level, and legislative assemblies at the state level. Those not democratically elected, sitting in a closed body, and who do not believe that others have a right to discuss, debate and question matters of religion, cannot be allowed to make law by decree that affect our fundamental liberties.

To remove this threat to parliamentary government, each fatwa should be subjected to affirmative resolution by the legislative body before it can come into effect. This is to ensure that the fatwa goes through a democratic process of debate before it becomes law, thus fulfilling the principle of shura in governance in Islam. Such open debate will also invite public participation in the making of legislation that affect fundamental liberties.
Utusan Malaysia - Bertindak terhadap SIS - Isma (24 July 2013)
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Bertindak terhadap SIS - Isma

24.07.2013
KUALA LUMPUR 24 Julai - Pihak berkuasa agama digesa melakukan siasatan dan mengambil tindakan ke atas Sisters In Islam (SIS) kerana mempertikaikan fatwa yang mengharamkan penyertaan wanita Islam dalam pertandingan ratu cantik. Presiden Ikatan Muslimin Malaysia (Isma), Abdullah Zaik Abdul Rahman berkata, tindakan Sis itu sama seperti perbuatan menghina Islam kerana fatwa adalah hukum agama yang diputuskan berdasarkan nas al-Quran, hadis dan sumber hukum lain termasuk ijtihad oleh mufti. ''Isu pokoknya adalah tentang aurat. Bab hukum aurat ini sememangnya sudah diketahui oleh semua umat Islam, tidak perlu difikir dan dikaji lagi. ''Majlis Fatwa Kebangsaan hanya menguatkuasakan hukum sedia ada, bukannya mengeluarkan hukum yang baharu," katanya ketika dihubungi Utusan Malaysia di sini hari ini. Beliau mengulas kenyataan Sis yang mempertikaikan pengeluaran fatwa di Malaysia dalam isu ratu cantik dengan menyifatkannya sebagai tidak islamik dan demokratik di laman portal berita FMT, semalam. Abdullah Zaik berkata, tindakan Sis yang sering bersikap prejudis terhadap Islam itu disifatkan sebagai 'merosakkan Islam dari dalam' kerana golongan tersebut mengaku Islam, namun meletakkan hukum logik dan akal lebih tinggi daripada al-Quran dan hadis.
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