Doing right by women – Zainah Anwar

Source: The Star Online

By Zainah Anwar

THE gasps were audible. The cringing moments were painful. The visible displays of shock, disbelief and exasperation were worthy of Academy Awards.

Whether you looked to the front, back, left or right, it was clear that everyone, from the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women (Cedaw) Committee experts to the civil society activists and national human rights institution commissioners from different countries, was stunned by the Malaysian performance in Geneva.

And #CedawMalaysia was the second highest trending topic on Feb 20. Read more

Into the future – together — Zainah Anwar

Source: The Star Online

BY ZAINAH ANWAR

Zainah Anwar, co-founder of Sisters in Islam. Pic taken from The Star Online.

Zainah Anwar, co-founder of Sisters in Islam. Pic taken from The Star Online.

AS we stumble into 2017 in a Malaysia and a world full of uncertainties, and a US President shooting from his hip, causing global turmoil, I am glad that there are actually two important discussions taking place now in Malaysia on the kind of country we want to live in.

One is the TN50 series of national dialogues with young people on the Malaysia they envision by 2050. The other is the effort to make Rukunegara the preamble to the Constitution. And I believe they should feed into each other.

Youth and Sports Minister Khairy Jamaluddin who is leading the TN50 dialogue, rightfully said this process is not just about defining policies for national development, but importantly, also about defining our national identity.

That many politicians are still determined to use ethnicity and religion to not only define us, but to divide us remains a dominant leitmotif of Malaysian politics to this day.

In his recent interview with The Star, Khairy stated that one of the areas of engagement in TN50 will be the subject of “an inclusive, vibrant and open society”.

This, he hopes, will lead to a discussion on values and what a Malaysian identity should be.

I hope these dialogue sessions will be a platform where diverse groups of stakeholders can get to listen to each other and think. And in this process the “I” can become a ‘We” – we, Malaysians. Read more

Justice for women still a challenge, says SIS co-founder

Source: The Star Online

Zainah Anwar, co-founder of Sisters in Islam. Pic taken from The Star Online.

Zainah Anwar, co-founder of Sisters in Islam. Pic taken from The Star Online.

KUALA LUMPUR: It’s not rocket science! said Zainah Anwar (pic), co-founder of Sisters in Islam.

Or is it, since the idea that women do have a voice and a say in how religion is interpreted and practiced in a country that uses Islam as a source of law and public policy, remains a radical notion, lamented the women’s activist and former Suhakam commissioner?

“The issue is not that there cannot be reform and there cannot be equality and justice for women in Islam; the issue is whether governments and those in religious authority have the political will to end discrimination against women.

“The arguments for reform are there – within Islam, within our Constitutional guarantees of equality and non-discrimination on the basis of gender, within the human rights principles we subscribe to when we agree to be part of the international system, and not least in the realities of women’s lives today and what it means to build and sustain the well-being of the family, all members of the family, not just one.”

She said this in her lecture titled “In Search Of Common Ground: Reconciling Islam And Human Rights” at the 4th Raja Aziz Addruse Memorial Lecture here on the first day of the Malaysian Bar’s International Malaysia Law Conference.

Chuffed to have been invited, Zainah said she had always admired the late Raja Aziz who was “a man of integrity and honour, who upheld the rule of law, was passionate about human rights, had the courage of his convictions” and never gave up no matter how tough the battle was. Read more

In search of common ground: Reconciling religion and human rights — Zainah Anwar

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.

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

The thorny issue of hudud – Zainah Anwar

Source: The Star Online

BY ZAINAH ANWAR

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Eye of the storm: As far as Abdul Hadi and PAS are concerned, they have ‘won’ the first step in implementing its brand of hudud. Pic taken from The Star Online.

PAS’ hudud always been a divisive issue which led to the breakup of Pakatan Rakyat. Now, it is a bigger threat.

CABINET Ministers who support the amendments to the Syariah Courts (Criminal Jurisdiction) Act 355 may continue to claim that it is not the prelude to enforcing hudud in Malaysia.

But as far as Datuk Seri Abdul Hadi Awang and PAS are concerned, they have checkmated Umno. It is the gateway to implementing hudud in Kelantan that they had strategised for – without having to amend the Federal Constitution.

In October 2011, PAS set up a technical committee on hudud and appointed a Constitutional lawyer to prepare a working paper. The strategy was to amend federal laws which needed only a simple majority, rather than going for a Constitu­tional amendment which would need a two-thirds majority which they knew they could not muster.

In April 2014, the new Kelantan Menteri Besar announced the plan to table two Private Member’s Bills to enable the Syariah Criminal Code II (1993), the so-called hudud law of Kelantan, to be enforced.

The tabling of the amendment to Act 355 to remove the limits on punishments that the Syariah Courts can impose will now open the way for any state in Malaysia to enhance the punitive powers of the syariah system.

Currently, Syariah Courts can impose a maximum of three years’ imprisonment, a fine of RM5,000 or six strokes of the rotan.

This amendment now removes this jurisdictional limit and replaces it with “any sentence allowed by Islamic law” other than the death penalty. This will then enable the Kelantan state government to impose hudud punishments of up to 100 lashes and amputation of hand and foot. Read more

Dark days for the fairer sex – Zainah Anwar

Source: The Star Online

Malaysia used to have one of the most progressive Muslim family laws in the world but by 2003, we are right there at the bottom, thanks to amendments to the law which discriminated women.

Far from equal: Egyptian women displaying their ink-stained fingers after casting their ballot at a polling station in Egypt recently. Egypt is listed in the UN Report on Progress of the World’s Women, along with Malaysia, for having highly discriminatory family laws. — AFP

Far from equal: Egyptian women displaying their ink-stained fingers after casting their ballot at a polling station in Egypt recently. Egypt is listed in the UN Report on Progress of the World’s Women, along with Malaysia, for having highly discriminatory family laws. — AFP

IN the latest UN report on Progress of the World’s Women 2015-2016, Malaysia is ignominiously lumped with Algeria, Bangladesh, Egypt, Iran, Jordan, Pakistan and Saudi Arabia, as countries that have maintained highly discriminatory family laws.

It is not that all these worst countries have laws based on Islam, for there are many Muslim countries with far better family laws. The significant finding is that women’s groups face the biggest resistance to reform when state and religion are closely intertwined. In such countries, religious doctrine is less likely to evolve and adapt to changing social practices as patriarchal interpretations of religion get frozen.

In contrast, the report highlighted the achievement of Morocco where the women’s movement mobilisation for family law reform, the election of a socialist party into power and the ascendance of a young progressive King successfully led to an overhaul of its Muslim family law.

The law reform in 2004, based on Islamic and human rights principles and women’s lived realities, recognise marriage as a partnership of equals. Read more