Friday, March 10, 2006

Marina Mahathir on Malaysia's 'Climate of Fear'

Remember my posting The Star refused to delayed publishing Marina Mahathir's article, which discussed Marina Mahathir's criticism of the apartheid-like treatment of Malaysian Muslim women?

In her article, Marina asserted that the poor ladies have now been consigned to the category of 2nd class citizens. Remember what I alluded to, based on a BBC news item, that The Star avoided publishing Marina’s article in order to maintain its political correctness?

One reader Suanie wrote in to say it’s just a simple delayed publishing issue so what’s the big deal? Thanks Suanie, readers’ comments like yours are always welcomed though I can’t promise to agree all the time. This time specifically, I would have to disagree because … read on!

Marina has informed AFP that her editors at The Star were concerned [scared is a better word] over the sensitive nature of her topic, hence their editorial feet dragging. She told AFP that since the Danish caricatures controversy [and its adverse fallout for some local newspapers here] the Malaysian media are scared to touch on any religious issue, particular on Islam. She didn’t add that newspapers associated with UMNO would generally be exempt. There you are Suanie, we’ve got it from the horse’s mouth that it was no simple printing reshedule of her article but grave editorial concerns at The Star.

But given that Marina knows a thing or two on how to present the Malaysian media with a fait accompli – basically a “if you won’t print, I’ll get AFP, BBC and Malaysiakini to print” approach - she now expects her article to be printed today, The Star’s Friday edition. And indeed it has been – read here.

Of course The Star came out in damage control to say the editor responsible for handling Marina's article had been too busy to deal with it at the time. Yeah, we know ;-)

Marina has been outraged that the revised Islamic Family laws (IFL) have effected a retrogressive step for women’s rights. She wrote: "We are unique in that we actively legally discriminate against women who are arguably the majority in this country, Muslim women. Non-Muslim Malaysian women have benefited from more progressive laws over the years while the opposite has happened for Muslim women."

In her Star article that I linked above, she enumerated the various enlightened advantages enjoyed by non-Muslim women with progressive updates in civil family laws, while by contrast their Muslim counterparts are deprived further of their rights by the IFL.

She said that even with this unfair discrimination, people dare not speak out because a climate of fear surrounds discussion of Islam in Malaysia, and that it was virtually impossible for anyone other than men with religious backgrounds to speak on the subject in Malaysia.

I have to agree with her on this point. Often, most of us would hear either appeals (if we are lucky) or demands (from less accommodating Muslims) that those who aren’t in command of Islamic laws or practices to not comment on certain issues even though those issues have an effect on the overall Malaysian social fabric. The ‘off-limits’ attitude have in many instances given some people unfettered authority to impose their intolerant worldviews [sometimes not necessarily of Islamic provenance] on others.

She added:

"Islam is a religion that allows for a lot of dialogue and discussion but what's happening is that the space for dialogue and discussion is narrowing all the time. This goes against the spirit of Islam."

"This sort of thing is what worries us, where the conservative voice is dominant and everyone else is afraid. So it's very scary. But if it's all shut up we'll find there's no more space at all and our lives will be taken over by some very conservative people."

Marina, I salute you. You certainly have the guts to speak out for Muslim women rights, basically for fairness as HE would want it for all HIS creation. Baby, you’re my sweetheart.


  1. lol if I sounded like I was dissing her, it was not of my intention for I think she's brave, sometimes ott but brave.

    And she did missed her deadlines before, many times :p

  2. Which is why I have mentioned before somewhere that religious laws and civil laws are not meant to co-exist as it would conflict and interfere with the everchanging nature of the society as they are often biased. How can the country move forth when there are still a big group of ppl being pushed back in time. This country is ruled with fear, not democracy when it comes to the subject of religion.

    Having said that, a friend who have been staying/working in Dubai for quite some time often say to us that the Muslim females in Malaysia are considered very lucky to be able to experience more freedom than those in the Middle East.

  3. Don't be stupid. One has a choice to choose their religion and if one choses to be Muslim he bound by Sharie Laws as well as Civil. So what is the big deal. Who said they cannot coexist. Take a military personal for example he is governed by Military Laws, if he is a Muslim he is also governed by Sharie and Civil. Bodoh punya otak.

  4. No Suanie, my posting was not about you badmouthing Marina. It has been about The Star's timidity, not that I am unsympathetic as the climate now is, as Marina stated, one of fear!

    A bloke who's under military law is always subordinated to civil law, for military law is but a component of the national legislation and not independent of the civil law as Sharia Law is.

    However, the posting is not about the compatiblity or coexistence of Sharia with Civil laws. It's about Muslim woman rights under the revised IFL.

    Marina's justified anger has been about that man-made law. Muslim women are now worse off than they were before the new IFL came into effect.

    Now, why would a modern nation like Malaysia, which claims to be a modern moderate Muslim nation, revised its IFL to an extent that Muslim women have now lost so much of their rights? One would have expected the opposite.

    That's the intriguing question I would like answered.