PETALING JAYA, 5 Nov 2009: The police are now being used to silence the views of groups like Sisters in Islam (SIS) following the lodging of multiple reports against the women’s rights group.
SIS programme manager Masjaliza Hamzah said that to date, what is believed to be more than 50 police reports have been lodged against their joint press statement calling for a review of syariah laws which allow whipping as punishment for Muslims.
Hamidah MaricanYesterday, SIS executive director Hamidah Marican and board member Zainah Anwar were called in to Bukit Aman to give their statements for an investigation under the Sedition Act 1948.
Masjaliza told The Nut Graph today, this had never happened before. “We have never been called in for questioning by the police. There have been a lot of general complaints against us but it has always been in the public sphere.”
Using state mechanisms
Masjaliza said that groups trying to silence SIS seem to be upping the ante by using the police against them.
“The police reports against SIS and JAG (Joint Action Group for Gender Equality which SIS is a member of) marks the beginning of more formal ways to silence civil society groups like ours to talk about issues affecting Muslims,” she said.
She noted that it was non-governmental organisations (NGOs) and individuals who were resorting to state mechanisms to complain against and silence views they did not agree with.
“This is an attempt to police our opinion and thought, a way for certain segments of society to narrow down the space for diversity of opinion in Islam,” she said.
“It’s interesting that this has happened at about the same time the former Perlis Mufti was arrested for giving ceramah without certification,” she added, referring to the arrest of Dr Mohd Asri Zainul Abidin on 1 Nov by the Selangor Religious Affairs Department (Jais).
Masjaliza said all kinds of methods were being used to curb the right to speak out and have different views.
For example, in June this year, PAS passed a resolution during its muktamar calling for SIS to be investigated and declared “haram” if it was found to be anti-Islam.
Masjaliza also wondered what these groups found un-Islamic about SIS’s statements.
“We think that principles of equality and justice are an important part of Islam. I wonder what about these two fundamental principles that all these groups find offensive? What is wrong with saying that equality, justice, freedom and dignity are part of the message of the Quran?”
Masjaliza said it appeared that the police reports were part of a concerted effort to silence people who speak up.
“Police reports were lodged at different places in Malaysia. This is not purely random,” she said.
It was reported that Angkatan Belia Islam Malaysia (Abim) lodged 11 reports against SIS on 9 Oct 2009 and were planning on filing 20 more reports nationwide the following day.
However, Abim secretary-general Raimi Ab Rahim told The Nut Graph that only five or six more reports were lodged in Pahang and Selangor.
Fourteen Muslim NGOs have also filed a police report in Kuantan against JAG and SIS for “insulting Islam”, as have Johor Umno Youth and Wanita Umno.
The Nut Graph was unable to confirm the total number of police reports that have been lodged against SIS despite several attempts at contacting Bukit Aman and the Kuantan police.
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Tshiung Han See says
This is indeed a serious issue. Thanks for bringing it to my attention. SIS does good work and this issue deserves wider coverage.
Could you clarify who reported that Abim had lodged 11 reports and planned to lodge 20 more?
Also, could you clarify if the Abim sec-gen was refuting the claim that his organisation filed the 11 and 20 reports?
As information becomes available from the police, I hope you’ll keep us informed.
If indeed Islam is the only true religion and nothing else matters, why is it that the Islamic religious agencies (eg. JAIS) and some Islamic conservative politicians such as Zul Noordin, Zahid Hamidi and the likes are so bent on silencing others, Muslims and non-Muslims, from speaking, discussing or debating issues or matters relating to Islam? Unless I missed something, my personal opinion is that a true and all-powerful religion can indeed withstand all kinds of questioning. So why the need for these so-called Islamists to be so fearful of other people’s viewpoints?
Mohammed Fauzi says
Dear Ding Jo-Ann
I am sure you do realize that SIS has been getting support by the media like yourself for many years to the chagrin of many Muslims in Malaysia. Just in case you do not know, SIS is deviant in the way they poke fun at Islam. This I am afraid is not for people like you to decide but for the Muslims themselves to judge, and it is clear that they speak out of ignorance and for the quarters who have always misconstrued Islam, I am not therefore that suprised to see so much media support they have been getting all this while.
Police are there for anyone to see if they feel they are aggrieved and no actions have thus far been taken, they are there too if one feels any group has infringed the feelings of many people, in fact you could also report to the police that the NGOs who go to the police abuse the police, let’s see who gets the airwaves this time.
It would be nice if you could stop meddling in the affairs of the Muslims for a while and let us sort out this wayward group of sisters ourselves. Despite many requests to hold intellectual seminars to discuss any issues SIS raise, they have always resorted to cheap publicity to air their biased views to media like yourself. The police are quite justified when someone incessantly ignores the feelings of the majority and seeks to hurt them in many issues.
These ‘insulting Islam’ claims are actually insulting to Islam. Who are these dumb asses who think they are so knowledgeable in Islam that they can pretend that they are champions and guardians of Islam? Their behaviour is revolting and childish.
Sisters, liberalism in religions is not tolerated in this country. You face a uphill battle. For the sake of women, keep fighting.
Dissent in form or style is anathema to Umno and BN and to those organisations who resent dissent. SIS must be commended and supported by all men of all races and religions for the valiant efforts that they and their fellow sisters all over the world are making to bring about equality for [women] and freedom from house-held slavery and being used as a sex tool by most men of certain ideologies.
Keep it up sisters. Let the fanatics and maniacs know that there are also decent men of goodwill and good conscience in this country.
Sad case … women cannot speak up … so, so sad. Yeah, women should only be in the kitchen, baby factories and be cooks lah. Hahahahaha … when will those people wake up? Best of all, Islam cannot be questioned at all. Not one bit … but whose version of Islam?
lee kok heng says
Remember the ISA arrest of Teresa Kok of DAP months ago? Who was put into incarceration was because someone in the politic accused her of criticising the azan.
People have maliciously used religion for their political gain and personal benefit. Ugliness of these vicious people is conspicuous. God should punish them on judgment day.
So only you and those who think like you truly understand the religion? The rest of us MUST follow? Was that how Islam was preached? And isn’t the fact that it was preached and not coerced telling us that it is a faith that encourages us to explore it intellectually and not to blind followers of the whims and fancies of anyone?
We may start of with rote learning as children, but isnâ€™t it in the end we appreciate the religion as mature and capable adults? Since Islamic authorities are part of the bureaucracy, and they do make statements on governance – as citizens, don’t you think everyone has a right to have their opinions heard? It is no longer just a religious question when it involves governance and the day-to-day affairs of society; Islamic rule becomes more where the religion is a source of inspiration but the actions and practices are wholly secular. What I mean by this is in the end, people translate the Holy texts and Hadith in seeking answers on how to live today. And with many references to use, people also rely on translations of translations and get into many different conversations with different people from many different periods (some conversations through existing literature bring us into conversation with scholars who lived several hundred years ago).
My point of course is that all this is an intellectual process. Of course, I am an ignoramus who is most likely wrong, but aren’t the religious department officers mere humans like the rest of us? Wait a minute – of course you know all this. So your comments to Ding Jo-Ann must be more sarcasm. To SIS another voice is a welcome voice! Their publications and activism have only given us more material to enrich the intellectual debate and broaden the practice of Malaysian Islamic discourse on rights.
siti khadijah says
How come being a Muslim in a non-Muslim country is a lot easier than here? In Malaysia, if we disagree with issues regarding Islam, we are labeled as deviant and ‘poking fun’. As if you are more Muslim than all of us just because you conform to ‘society’.
I can bet you, you have not met SIS and have no intention of doing so. Everyone knows every year there are seminars and forums organized by SIS for everybody including non-Muslims to participate. Maybe you didn’t RSVP?
SIS consists of professionals such as lawyers, engineers, activists, ustazahs, non-ustazahs who are dedicating their time and money to protect people like me. My rights, as a Muslim! May Allah bless SIS and you!
As a Malaysian, I reject the idea of shutting down religious discourse through intimidation. One report is not much to look at. But if there is a series of reports at one go, then it is systematic intimidation.
So you believe that SIS should be silenced by intimidation because they are deviant? Even Dr Asri is considered deviant by some groups in Malaysia. Why? Because he said doa qunut is bida. That is a warning for all of us. Today you think that Sisters in Islam deserves to be put out for being deviant. Tomorrow, it might be you. And after you, me.
As a non-Muslim I do not support all the arguments brought forth by members of SIS, for example, tudung. Why? I read the theological arguments from both sides — conservative and liberal. I came to the conclusion that the conservative interpretation is correct. So I now believe that if you are a Muslim woman, tudung is compulsory.
That is the way you win an argument. You present the evidence and the facts. You let the people decide. You don’t shut down one group because you feel that their interpretation is wrong.
You say that SIS has been invited to discuss the issues many times but rejected them. That is the argument I always hear from the blogosphere. I think half the time the people are just passing rumours around because it is ‘sensational’ to tar deviant people in Malaysia, from Ayah Pin to Rasul Melayu. Can you tell me how many times have SIS ‘dibawa berbincang’? When?
Ha.. ha.. Sisters in Islam, tapi ahli tak macam orang Islam pun … ada yang tak pakai tudung lagi, Quran mana kau orang ikut? Patut buang perkataan Islam supaya tidak mengelirukan orang Islam.