Source: The Malaysian Bar
SEPTEMBER 21 — Speech by Zainah Anwar at the 4th Raja Aziz Addruse Memorial Lecture entitled In Search of Common Ground: Reconciling Religion and Human Rights:
Zainah Anwar, co-founder of Sisters in Islam. Pic taken from The Star Online.
Ladies and gentlemen, I am really honoured to be standing here today to give the 4th Raja Aziz Addruse Memorial Lecture. Thank you to the Bar Council and Steven Thiru for this brave invitation. I give talks and lectures all over the world, but it is not often that I get invited to give such a public lecture to a big and particularly important audience in Malaysia. So thank you for this honour, not least because it is in the name of a man I have always admired, the late Raja Aziz Addruse — a man of integrity and honour, a man who upheld the rule of law, who was passionate about human rights, who had the courage of his convictions. And not least, a man who believed that no matter how tough the battle is, we must never give up — to stand up and speak out for what is right and what is just. So thank you once again for this honour.
Ladies and gentlemen, when I began to speak publicly of finding equality and justice in Islam over 25 years ago, a common response was, “Why bother?” Muslim feminists told me it was a waste of time, a losing battle because Islam, in fact, all religions are inherently unjust and patriarchal: for every alternative interpretation I could offer to justify equality, the ulama could counter with 100 others. And it is their voice that is recognised as the voice of authority on matters of faith, not mine.
The secularists said it was a dangerous enterprise, as I was giving legitimacy to the position of religion in the public square. Religion is private between you and God and should have no role to play in public life, let alone in public law and policy. To argue that religion can be a source of good and a source of justice is to give strength to the place of religion in public life. Religion must remain personal, and be delegitimised in the public sphere.
And the human rights activists felt it was wrong to engage with religion as the fight for justice and equality can only and should only be fought through a human rights framework, through UN conventions and universal principles. This is our area of strength that the ulama and Islamist activists do not have, and we should focus our struggle within only this universal framework. Read more