Press statement by Syerleena Abdul Rashid – DAP Wanita National Assistant Publicity Secretary/DAP Wanita Penang Political Education Director/DAP Penang State Assistant Publicity Secretary/MBPP Councillor – Georgetown, Penang – 20th July 2017
The issue of women in Islam – our rights and responsibilities have often been distorted and become a subject of grave misunderstanding. This is partly due to the misinterpretation of Islamic teachings perpetuated by misogyny and patriarchy. Islamic laws are derived from the Quran, which is often regarded as the words of Allah and the sayings of the Prophet (pbuh) based on his deeds and endorsements. However, over the past several years, we have witnessed how certain laws are upheld with a preference that contradicts basic human rights and common decency.
The recent survey conducted by Sisters in Islam’s (SIS) legal service, Telenisa, shed some light on the distressing current situation faced by a number of Muslim women in our country. According to Telenisa, 47% of its clients has sought for “fasakh” (a method of divorce sanctioned in Islam which is initiated by the wife) and while some of these causes range from infidelity, lack of communication, polygamy, substance abuse and so on, the alarming increase of domestic violence cases reported is extremely worrying – 2016 recorded 107 cases compared to 27 in 2015, citing domestic abuse as one of the main reasons for “fasakh”. Nevertheless, I applaud these women for standing up – their courage will definitely inspire more victims of abuse to stand up and speak out against violence and mistreatment.
While it is clear that there certain subjects such as marital rape is not clearly defined in Islam and victim blaming is uncomfortably pervasive in our society, a majority of survivors of violent abuse opt to remain mum for several reasons. The ambiguity of our judicial system makes it extremely challenging for women to speak up but we should never concur defeat and accept this broken system.
The Quran clearly indicates in Surahs 30:21 that “Among His Signs is this, that he created for you mates from among yourselves, that they may dwell in tranquility with them, and He has put love and mercy between your (hearts): Verily in that are signs for those who reflect” reaffirming that marriage is about partnerships created on fairness, respect and mutual understanding.
Additionally, the national survey also highlight the negative impacts of polygamy; while under Islamic Family Law (Federal Territory) Act 1984, a husband is required to apply to court before taking another wife, this is to legally ensure that the husband will be able to provide financial and emotional support to his current and future families. However, because of the existing loopholes and lack of enforcement, many of these men have chosen to disregard this regulation; approximately 44% of first wives had to take an additional job or work overtime to ensure financial stability after their husbands took on extra spouses and this clearly shows that the rights of wives and children are simply not taken into consideration.
I must reiterate that the approval and consent in marriage is a prerequisite for the validity of marriage in Islam, and I must reaffirm that Islam does not condone injustice, exploitation of the family institution and mistreatment of women and children.
While there is a government sanctioned move to empower syariah courts throughout the country, the issues that are currently being championed and the methods employed may do very little in terms of strengthening family institutions. The recent amendments made in Kelatan to allow public canning in certain designated areas within the PAS-led state is evidence of how certain decision makers favour punishment over preventive measures and are not too concerned with finding sound solutions.
Historically, these institutions have conveniently placed the onus on women when marital breakdowns occur and blame us for the widespread of social ills in our country. Furthermore, the same institutions have also failed to address valid issues such as domestic violence, protecting children caught in between child custody cases or in abusive families, failure to uphold partial polygamous relationships, incest and child marriages.
The direction of where Malaysia is heading towards is a valid cause of concern to any sound minded Malaysian, irrespective of religious beliefs but more so to Muslim women and children who are caught in the middle of this overzealous tug-of-war. If the government is serious about upholding the sanctity of family institutions and human rights in accordance to Islam, these institutions must prioritize and address issues concerning women and children, diligently but above all, must exercise impartiality and sound moral judgment when dealing with such cases.
SYERLEENA ABDUL RASHID
DAP Wanita National Assistant Publicity Secretary
DAP Wanita Penang Political Education Director
DAP Penang State Assistant Publicity Secretary