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Press Statement on 100 Years of International Women's Day
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Press Statement on 100 Years of International Women’s Day
7 March 2011

Sisters in Islam calls on the Federal and state governments to make good on their promises to revise the discriminatory amendments to the Islamic Family Law (the IFL) statutes passed from 2003-2005. As women around the world mark the centennial celebration of International Women’s Day, it is no longer acceptable for Muslim women in this country to be deprived of rights enjoyed by men and their sisters of other faiths.

In February 2009, Datuk Seri Shahrizat Abdul Jalil announced that amendments to the IFL statutes that would countermand the discriminatory provisions would soon be tabled in Parliament. These would be tabled alongside amendments to the Law Reform (Marriage and Divorce) Act 1976 (the LRA) to safeguard the interests of non-Muslim women upon the conversion of their spouses to Islam. However, these amendments bills were subsequently withdrawn as the Conference of Rulers wanted time to consult their respective state religious councils. The proposed amendments to the IFL statutes and LRA have since languished in limbo.

Malaysia’s 1984 Islamic Family Law was once regarded as among the most progressive in the Muslim world. Subsequent amendments to the law in 1994 and 2003, instead of strengthening the recognition of the rights of women, have diminished the rights of Muslim women in Malaysia. While women of other faiths are treated as equals with reform of the civil family law, Muslim women suffer increasing discrimination with each round of amendments to the Islamic Family Law statutes. More legal rights were given to men and the use of gender neutral language extended to men the legal rights that historically were seen as the rights of women.

For example, in the Islamic Family Law (FT) (Amendment) Act 2005, existing provisions under Section 2(a) and Section 23(9) with regards to harta sepencarian (matrimonial property) have been made gender-neutral. This meant that husbands are able to freeze women’s bank accounts and assets in order to claim his share of harta sepencarian, and file a claim for a share of harta sepencarian upon contracting a polygamous marriage. However, other provisions in the IFL statutes remain discriminatory towards women. For example, only husbands are able to unilaterally divorce their wives and only fathers have the right to guardianship of their children.

Furthermore, a husband can now get a court order to stop his wife from disposing her property (Section 107A). Historically, one of the most remarkable ways in which the shari’ah was far ahead of western legislation by many centuries was its recognition and protection of a wife’s rights over her own property. But with this recent amendment, a wife’s own property is no longer protected for her to deal with as she chooses. A woman who is financially dependent on her husband and has no independent source of income, is put in dire straits as she has no access to her own savings and assets in order to maintain herself and her children.

The Islamic Family Law (Federal Territories) Act 1984, section 23, previously stated that the proposed (polygamous) marriage must be ‘just and necessary’, but this has now been amended to “just or necessary”. This significantly reduces the husband’s burden of proof to justify a polygamous marriage. He merely now has to tell the Syariah court that the marriage is necessary (the usual excuse being ‘to prevent zina’); he no longer has to convince the court that it will be a ‘just’ act on his part. Justice in polygamous marriages is not optional, but mandatory according to hukum syara’.

In response to the critical situation faced by women, SIS has drafted a model Muslim Family Law drawing on best practices from Muslim countries, a national consultation on the IFL, and the lived realities of Malaysian women. Alongside other women’s groups, we have also sent countless memoranda and letters to government ministries and agencies urging them to address discrimination faced by women in law and in practice.

While SIS appreciates the Federal Government’s responsiveness to the issues brought up by women in relation to the IFL amendments, we wish to remind our lawmakers that law and policy reforms must be coupled with the political will to see them through. The effects of the discriminatory provisions in the IFL statutes are not merely theoretical, as evidenced by cases handled by SIS and other women’s groups. We have documented cases in which women with children were left impoverished after their bank accounts were frozen by their husbands, and others wherein the men absconded to other states to escape court orders.

In 2008, the Joint Action Group for Gender Equality campaigned for MPs to “Kotakan Kata” (“Keep Your Promises”) in looking into urgent reforms related to women’s human rights. The silence on amendments to the IFL statutes and the LRA is a regrettable indication that despite the events lined up for International Women’s Day this year, issues affecting women that are seen as contentious remain low on the hierarchy of priorities.

Ratna Osman
Acting Executive Director
Sisters in Islam
Marina, Zainah among world’s 100 most inspiring women
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The Star, Thursday 3 March 2011

PETALING JAYA: Two well-known women activists have been listed among the 100 most inspiring people by a New York-based global advocacy group.

Datin Paduka Marina Mahathir and Sisters in Islam (SIS) leader Zainah Anwar were chosen by the group called Women Deliver for their contributions to causes for women.

Others in the list included talk show host Oprah Winfrey, Jordan’s Queen Rania Al Abdullah and United Nations Women’s chief Michelle Bachelet.

The list was announced on Tuesday. It was compiled based on the recipients’ work in improving the lives of women and girls in various fields, including health, human rights, politics, economics and education.

Marina, who is also a columnist with The Star, was number 57 on the list.

Zainah, who was placed seventh, said it was an honour to be named.

“It’s more of an honour for SIS to be recognised on a global level for our 20-year long struggle to push for women’s rights in Islam,” she said.

Women Deliver, launched in 2007, aims to fulfil the Fifth Millennium Development Goal of reducing maternal mortality and achieving universal access to reproductive health.

Among its advisers are Amnesty International, United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA), World Health Organisation (WHO), World Bank and the International Planned Parenthood Federation (IPPF).

Separately, University Malaya Medical Centre Infectious Diseases Department chief Prof Dr Adeeba Kamarulzaman was honoured by another organisation.

She was listed as one of the “Leading 50 current and emerging female leaders who have made a significant contribution professionally or within their communities” by Advance.

Advance, set up in 2002, is the global network of Australians and alumni abroad.

Dr Adeeba was recognised for her work on the Malaysian AIDS Council and the Academy of Sciences Malaysia.

“It’s nice to be acknowledged and a great opportunity to spread the word on the council,” she said.
2 Malaysians among world's '100 most inspiring people'
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New Straits Times, Wednesday 2 March 2011
by Lydia Gomez
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KUALA LUMPUR: Two prominent Malaysian women have been included in a New York-based global advocacy’s list of 100 most inspiring people around the world for their work in advocating the rights of women and girls. Zainah Anwar - who founded Sisters In Islam (SIS) and is the project director of Musawah, an international collaborative group for equality and justice in the Muslim family - and blogger, women’s rights and HIV/AIDS awareness advocate Datin Paduka Marina Mahathir were named in the list put out by Women Deliver.

Zainah and Marina joined the rank of other distinguished personalities including former US first lady Laura Bush, ABC news anchor and tv personality Christiane Amanpour, US secretary of state Hillary Clinton, United Nations secretary-general Ban Ki-moon, CNN Hero of the Year and anti-sex trafficking activist Anuradha Koirala, talk show host and philanthropist Oprah Winfrey and Spanish Prime Minister José Luis Rodríguez Zapatero.

The list, announced in New York yesterday, was compiled based on the recipients’ work in improving the lives of women and girls in the fields of health, human rights, politics, economics, education, journalism and philanthropy.

Zainah who occupied the seventh position in the list, said she was informed of her inclusion in the list in mid-February.

“It is an honour for Sisters in Islam's work to be recognised at the global level. Our work breaks the myth that Muslim women are oppressed and victimised, and further breaks the myth that Islam is inherently a religion that discriminates against women,” she said.

Zainah described her biggest achievement was in empowering Muslim women to claim their right to be treated as human beings of equal worth and dignity.

She added Musawah, which was initiated by Sisters in Islam two years ago and led by an international committee of scholars and activists from Malaysia, Indonesia, Pakistan, Egypt, Morocco, Gambia, Nigeria, Iran, the United States and the United Kingdom, had become a source of hope for change in the Muslim world.

The organisation was also invited to Geneva to give briefings to the Committee on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW Committee).

Meanwhile, Marina, who occupied the 57th position, said Women Deliver contacted her through her blog last week.

“I am very honoured to be named in the list. I think it’s nice that Malaysia is recognised. It makes people aware of Malaysia and we get international recognition. People will also take us more seriously,” said Marina who is also a SIS board member.

In a press statement released yesterday, Women Deliver president Jill Sheffield said last year had been “widely viewed as the year women’s issues finally came to the fore in international development.

“This list recognises those who successfully navigated the corridors of power, along with those on the front lines, who have worked to expand the rights and choices for girls and women everywhere,” she said.

Other countries in the region mentioned in the list were Cambodia and Philippines with one and two representatives each. Representation from Sub-Saharan nations was the highest with 26 names followed by the Middle East and North Africa with 20 names.

Women Deliver, launched in 2007, promotes and advances the health of girls, women and mothers and serves as a global source of information for advocacy and action.

Among its advisors are Amnesty International, United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA), World Health Organization (WHO), World Bank and the International Planned Parenthood Federation (IPPF).
Ignorance giving rise to discrimination - The Star - Musings
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Much of the tension that we experience today is because of the mistrust we have for one another and also because those who have more cannot find it in their hearts to be fair to those who do not have as much.

IN THE women’s rights work that I do, the foundation of my colleagues’ and my belief regarding our rights is that there can be no justice without equality.

Where that applies to women, it’s called feminism, but it can equally apply to any oppressed group we know of.

Basically, we cannot be just to anyone if we don’t think of them as our equals.
Cry freedom: Thousands of Egyptians waving their national flag to celebrate the success of their revolution in Tahrir Square. Their success had inspired many around the Arab region to try to liberate their countries from tyranny and oppression. — AFP

If we don’t think some people are equal because of their sex, class, race, religion, sexual orientation, nationality, ability or age, then it would be very hard to be truly just to them.

We find it hard to compare them to ourselves, and, therefore, as deserving as ourselves of whatever rights and opportunities there are.

This is sometimes why we are in awe when people “cross barriers” to help someone outside their usual circles, like when Princess Diana visited people with HIV. I

t was just so unusual, that it proved the rule. Hence, we are neglectful of people who are different from us, or worse, discriminatory.

Often this comes from ignorance. There are some of us who grow up simply unable to fathom lives different from ours.

But it can also be willful and deliberate. Much of the tension that we are experiencing today is because of the mistrust we have for one another, because those of us who have more cannot find it in our hearts to be fair and just to those who do not have as much.

Worse still, we find ways to justify why we have to behave that way. We have come to a point in our nation’s life where we really have to think about where we are headed.

re we going to perpetually think of ourselves as so exceptional and different from everyone else that we don’t have to meet normal human standards?

Do we have to be so defensive that we only see what we want and are blind to any other point of view?

Today, I read about some people who objected when a non-Muslim began his speech with the traditional Muslim greeting of peace. Apparently, this was considered offensive because it was sensitive.

Honestly, this is the sort of thing that makes me want to give up on this country, that there are idiots who have the temerity to call themselves leaders at all. As any child knows, assalamualaikum means “peace be with you”.

It is the most benign and civil of greetings, welcoming and warm. If meant sincerely, it means that you have come in peace and wish to conduct yourself in a peaceful way.

In the Arab world, everybody uses this greeting. They certainly never, as Malaysians did at one time, differentiate between who they could say it to, and whom they couldn’t.

It is not a greeting patented by Muslims or owned by God. So, intelligent right-thinking Mus­lims should be very welcoming when a non-Muslim uses it because it means they have come in peace. And you can hold them to that.

So why make war out of it? How come when President Barack Obama used the same greeting when he went to Indonesia, the largest Muslim country in the world, nobody objected?

Why, if he went to Penang and did the same thing, no doubt there would be appreciative applause and pleased shuffling, too.

I don’t know what world we live in that we think we are so special that nobody can hold a candle to us.

We look in distaste when Arabs protest, but when we see that it’s peaceful, we say that they must be mature people, unlike we here who are so incapable of protesting peacefully that we need to be censured before we even step out of our homes.

Students and young people around the Arab region are liberating their countries from tyranny and oppression, and ours are deemed too untrustworthy to even talk about politics.

The image we seemingly want to present to the world is one of gross intolerance of anything that doesn’t fit into the small narrow hole we call Malaysian.

At the same time, we seem to be proud of our immaturity.

Do we actually tell foreigners that our students are too immature to be trusted to discuss politics?

And we’re proud of it? How do we explain to puzzled foreigners, including Arabs who actually speak the language, that we think some of their words are exclusive to us only?

Right now, the coolest nationality to be is Egyptian.

It means young, democratic, inclusive and free.

In Wisconsin, where people are protesting against a state government that is taking away their union rights, there are signs that say “Fight like an Egyptian”. Imagine that.

When will the rest of the world want to be Malaysian?

Note: No reproduction of this article is allowed without the author's consent.
Let’s adore our beloveds daily - The Star - Musings
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Unless prompted, most of us forget about romance in our lives. Everybody needs some, and there is no need to restrict it to only a certain day in the year.

WE often bemoan the intense politicking between our political parties where neither side will ever agree with whatever the other side says.
But occasionally there is bi-partisan cooperation on issues. Unsurprisingly they cooperate on sin. Or, anti-sin if you like.

Recently, the Youth wing of PAS announced that Muslims should not celebrate Valentine’s Day and instead lead a sin-free life.

Not long after, the government department Jakim announced that it would launch an anti-Valentine’s Day campaign to persuade Muslims to lead a life sans sin.

First of all, wouldn’t it be nice if we could all lead lives without any sin at all? Why, this would obviate the need for Judgment Day, and even heaven and hell.

We would all live our lives never telling a single lie, never betraying friends and family, never asking for payola or paying off anyone to get something.

I don’t recall ever a time in history where people lived in such bliss but I suppose we should not stop hoping.

Secondly, there are certainly 365 days a year (less in a Muslim year) to both commit sins or not to, so it hardly seems efficient to concentrate so much time, energy and effort on just one.

Why, if I were a smart sinner, I’d just postpone my romantic dinner with my husband by one day. Although I still don’t understand why going on a date with my husband should be considered a sin. I thought that was why I signed on the dotted line.

Isn’t that why we encourage young girls to sign up for marriage, so that they would stop sinning, the little hussies? So the dating would become kosher?

I do agree, however, that we should not focus all our passion on our loved one (or several) on just one day in a year.

We should instead spread it out so that our beloveds feel adored every day. That is, if they don’t feel smothered instead.

Perhaps our problem is that, unless prompted, most of us forget about romance in our lives.

Everybody needs some, and why restrict it to certain days in the year?

Instead of having an anti-Valentine’s Day campaign, I propose that Jakim (and PAS, too, if they’d like to) do a year-long one on love.

The campaign could have some catchy name, like “How Do I love Thee, Let Me Count the Ways” (and there should be at least 365 romantic ideas).

Or, “What’s Love Got To Do With It? Romancing the Halal Way.”

Or, in tune with our current government slogan, “1Love.” This however might be problematic for those who may have more than one beloved in their lives.

But campaign slogans may not be enough, especially when people don’t understand what they actually stand for. What we therefore need are role models. People whom everyone can look up to as fine examples of perfect halal sin-free love.

In this case, who would be better suited for these roles than our religious leaders themselves?

Presumably they all have wives they love. Therefore they should lead these campaigns by giving talks on how they express their love for their wives.

Every single day, of course. It would be instructive for the rest of us, not to mention rivetting.

I’d love to know how PAS youth make their women feel special. Do they compliment them on their looks, or on their cooking skills? For those with wives who work outside the home, do they take them out for a celebratory meal (and thus give them a day off from the kitchen) when they get promoted?

How do Jakim officers fete their wives? On birthdays and anniversaries, what do they give their lovies? Since sexiness by one’s spouse is very much allowed, do they shop the Victoria’s Secret catalogue for risqué undies? Apparently it’s well documented that apart from diamond rings, sexy undies always work.

Lest anyone think I’m mocking anyone, I am dead serious. You can’t take away a fun activity like Valentine’s Day without giving a suitable alternative.

It is simply not enough to say that since Valentine’s Day leads to sin, you must just do something unsinful. There needs to be more pro-active ideas than that.

Give examples of unsinful things a loving couple could get up to, especially if they are married. What would be suitable replacements for a bouquet of roses, a box of chocolates or a teddy bear, for example? And where would be good dinner venues, those with presumably bright lights and religious music?

And what advice would they give on how to douse passions that such evenings might arouse?

All of us long-time marrieds are waiting with bated breath. After all we want to go to heaven, too.
Beware wave for rights - The Star - Sharing the Nation
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It behoves on governments and their religious apparatus to watch current developments in the Arab world closely.

I WENT to Egypt for the first time in 1981 and promptly fell in love with the country and its people. Until then, I thought I had never encountered the same warmth, generosity and hospitality as Malaysians had to offer.

And there, everyone, including strangers you just met, wanted you to visit their home, their farm, their village.

They were proud of their history and their country – and wanted to feed you endlessly. I have been back several times since for holidays and meetings.

However, by my last visit at the end of 2009, I felt the country was ripe for a revolution.

Decades of oppression, corruption and misrule had turned the once warm, proud people I met into angry, hardened individuals.

My Egyptian friend would turn on the radio to listen to the news every morning and instinctively say, “I hope Hosni Mubarak is dead.” I saw loud quarrels daily in the streets, whether it was in Cairo, Luxor or Aswan.

Taxi drivers, camel, donkey and horse cart drivers fought with each other over who stole whose customers.

One voice: The uprising in Egypt is not led by manic men in beards and faceless women in black. Arabs from all walks of life are revolting against their despotic rulers. The only flags flying are national flags.

The “illegal” guides and touts at tourist sites cheated tourists blind as they left them stranded in the middle of the hot sands of the Pyramids, unless they were paid double for the ride back on their camels.

Turned out the payment that had been negotiated before the journey had just been for a one-way trip.

And God forbid if you met the eye of a man trying to sell you postcards or plastic copies of the Sphinx or the Pyramids; he would not let you get away until you bought something. I

n the end, I rationalised that they all needed the money more than I did and just gave in each time.

But my last straw of patience was broken when I was trying to find transport between the domestic terminal to the international terminal in Cairo to catch my flight home.

I was sent on a merry-go-round to find my way out of the building and to the right bus stop.

Even then I had to change buses to make that 10-minute trip! When I finally boarded the right bus to the international terminal, I announced in exasperation to the passengers, “You need a new government.”

Those who could understand English stared at me for a moment and then turned to each other in hushed discussion. A government that pays no attention to the basic needs of its people, and not even to the goose that lays its golden egg, will come to its inevitable end.

My Egyptian friends are not the only ones who are excited and passionate about this historic moment to topple a 30-year-old dictatorship: so are democrats in the Muslim world as we chat, tweet, blog and e-mail each other.

Finally, the democracy wave that swept Latin America and Africa is hitting the Arab world. And how significant that will be to the rest of the Muslim world.

Even though only about 20% of Muslims live in Arab lands, too many among us who live on supposedly the periphery of the Muslim world still look upon the Arab world as everything that is authentically Muslim.

We, in the supposed periphery, who have kept Islam alive for centuries by our ability to adapt the practice and understanding of the faith to our cultural particularities were suddenly told that the way we practised Islam – a kinder and gentler way – was “unIslamic”. I

t was jahilliyah – ignorant Islam. Now that we knew what “true” Islam was, we needed to follow its authentic ways.

So our sarong kebaya, selendang, and even baju kurung were all not Islamic enough. We must now don the long loose jubah that hides our shape.

And to please God more, we have to make it in solid black, navy blue or brown. Our mak yong, wayang kulit and mandi putri were banned for all their syirik (placing an entity on the same level as God) elements.

Suddenly, hundreds of years of culture and tradition of the Malay archipelago, which had absorbed the influences of great world civilisations, were pronounced unIslamic.

Never mind that we have become the poorer for it – as long as we are “authentically” Muslim.

The political Islam that developed within the geo-political context of the conflicts and competition of the Middle Eastern world became our struggle and our burden.

In the race to be “authentically” Muslim, we adopt laws that discriminate against women so that we can be more like the “authentic” Saudis.

We segregate men and women; we can no longer shake hands with those of the opposite sex; we forbid Muslims from greeting friends of other faiths on their festive occasions; and we justify child marriage in the name of Islam.

Never mind all the evidence of the harm it causes to the child bride.

While those who wish for the status quo to remain in the Arab world push away the spectre of the Muslim Brotherhood and political Islamists coming to power in place of the despotic allies of the United States, my Arab friends are at pains to point out that what is happening in the streets of Tunisia, Egypt, Jordan, Yemen, and Sudan is a people’s uprising, in particular the revolution of the young, people with “no job, no money and no freedom”, as the Egyptian columnist Mona Eltahawy said.

They form 60% of the population in the Arab world; and they could have been a source of growth and wealth or a source of violence and instability, Arab development reports had warned for long.

My Arab friends are of course burgeoning with pride and confidence that what will eventually emerge in Egypt and Tunisia will be democratic governments.

The hundreds of thousands of people out in the streets in the Arab world are not demanding an Islamic state and Shariah law, they pointed out. The uprising is not led by manic men in beards and faceless, joyless women in black.

Arabs from all political persuasions and all walks of life are revolting against their despotic rulers. The only flags flying are national flags.

While the Islamist movement in both countries remain the largest political force, and there is worry that they might step into any political vacuum and commandeer power, this is not the world of 1979.

Back then, the Iranian revolution which had brought diverse social and political forces together was hijacked by the Islamists and transformed into an Islamic revolution. Thirty-two years of Islamic rule has not brought Iran the social justice, democracy, and freedom the people yearned for.

A despotic monarchy was replaced by a despotic theocratic rule.

In the 21st century, Muslims have seen the failure of the Islamic state experiment in Iran, Sudan and Afghanistan after the overthrow of secular regimes.

The return of Rashid Al-Ghannouchi, the 69-year-old leader of the Tunisian Islamist movement Al-Nahda, after a long exile in London is not the return of a Khomeini ready to impose vilayet-e-faqih, rule of the jurisconsult as God’s representative on earth.

In interviews, he has rejected this notion and criticised the Egyptian Muslim Brotherhood for its party position that an Ulama Council should supervise Parliament as in Iran where the all-powerful Guardian Council must approve all bills passed and has the power of veto if it considers them inconsistent with the Constitution and the Shariah. He also criticised the Muslim Brotherhood’s position against Copts and women running for the presidency.

Instead, he sees the AKP in Turkey (Justice and Development Party) as a model to follow, and the Scandinavian socio-economic model as the closest to his Islamic vision.

He believes in democracy and calls on Islamists to relinquish their ambition to monopolise Islam and impose a single, all-powerful interpretation which has proven to be inherently unstable and temporary, he said.

In the end, the proof of the pudding of course must be in the eating, but Ghannouchi is wise and strategic enough to capture the imagination and the mood of the times.

And the times have indeed changed. It behoves on the Malaysian Government and its religious apparatus on the one hand and Pakatan Rakyat and its PAS allies on the other to watch the developments in the Arab world closely.

As the revolt spreads in the Arab world and the democracy movement digs roots in that region, we might just find ourselves falling from the much-touted model modern Muslim state to an intolerant autocratic state where religion, race and gender become increasingly entrenched as the basis of citizenship and exercise of rights.
Winds of change beckon in Egypt - The Star - Musings
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It started in Tunisia and has now spread to Egypt. People are revolting against longstanding leaders who have ruled with iron fists and lived in opulence while the masses suffer with soaring unemployment and a rising cost of living.

WHOEVER said the Year of the Rabbit would be a gentle one? In Tunisia, a small act of desperation literally sparked off historic changes.

A young man called Mohamad Bouazizi, educated but only able to earn a living selling fruit and vegetables at an illegal stall, set himself on fire after the authorities confiscated it.

Mohamad symbolised all the young and disenfranchised in Tunisia, frustrated by the huge gap between them and the extremely wealthy elite, and thus sparked large protests. In less than a month, the much-hated President and his family were out and Tunisia is now in the throes of transition to a new government, the shape of which nobody quite knows yet.

Whatever it becomes, Tunisia’s people revolt had inspired others. Smaller protests started to spring up in Algeria, Jordan and Yemen.

And then Egypt, with the largest population in the Middle East – 80 million, suddenly caught fire. We have to realise that people don’t revolt just to be trendy.

The Middle East has been ripe for this for a long time. Long-standing leaders rule them with iron hands, rigging votes as well as disallowing their people of much freedom. Some use religion as the basis for such repression.

But such leaders can slowly go blind and deaf. Many of them fail to notice that their population, which comprise the younger generation mostly, are the ones who are facing a desperate unemployment situation.

According to the International Labour Organisation, the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) region has the worst unemployment problem in the world.

In Egypt, 58% of the population is under 25 years old.

In 2003 it had the highest unemployment rate in the world, at 25.6%, and there is an additional 500,000 unemployed each year. Across the Arab world, the unemployment rate stands at 20%.

This translates to 22 million people, out of which 60% are youth. Much of this unemployment is attributed to the failure of most Arab countries to link education to the needs of the job market.

As we can see from the events in Egypt right now, nothing could be more dangerous for leaders than to educate young people for jobs that do not exist.

Couple that with a failing economy which depletes people’s already low standards of living and a refusal to address those issues, then you provide kindling dry enough to be set alight with any match. And it doesn’t even have to be an internal one.

This should be a lesson for leaders everywhere. More than anything, people’s dignity and self-respect is important. In this light, a job and the ability to provide for one’s family is part of that personal dignity.

When people are unemployed, it is not because they are lazy and choosy. It is because there are no jobs or none that matches their educational attainments.

How humiliating it is to be forced, like Mohamad Bouazizi, to take a job selling vegetables in a market when you are an educated person.

But only leaders who are willing to listen to people will understand the need for such dignity.

If at the same time, a leader is seen as not only unwilling to listen but also greedy and corrupt, living in unashamed opulence as Tunisia’s former President and his wife did while his people had so little, then there will come a time when the patience of the people will run out.

Malaysians may shake their heads at the riots in Egypt. But it has to be understood that the desperation and frustration of Egyptians far exceeds anything we have ever known.

And after brutal repression all these years, to go out on the streets to demand a return of their dignity is an act of courage which we rarely have to show. Egyptians and their Arab counterparts are not scared of dying to gain freedom.

That is what’s frightening every single leader across the region now. Especially since even the police and army, crucial to maintaining power, are also rebelling.

I am appalled at the silence on our side at this historic moment, apart from ensuring our students are safe.

Indeed, most world leaders have been caught off-guard and dumbfounded by this. Some big powers are even trying to hedge their bets, not quite supporting their old friends while trying to encourage the people’s revolt.

After all, they had been supporting undemocratic regimes and now democracy has a chance to bloom without their help at all.

And the countries they have invaded for the sake of “democracy” are not doing that well either.

We should watch closely this historic moment in the MENA and learn the many lessons from there.

And let us never think that such a revolution can’t happen here.

As MENA leaders are finding, never be foolish enough to say never.

Gong Xi Fa Cai!
Hak Suami dan Isteri dalam Harta Sepencarian
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Soalan :

Keputusan cerai antara saya dan bekas isteri telah di sahkan oleh Mahkamah Syariah di sini. Salah seorang Pegawai Sulh telah menyarankan bahawa saya dan bekas isteri untuk menjalani kaedah Sulh dalam menyelesaikan tuntutan bersama yang dipohon oleh kami. Antara tuntutan yang dituntut ialah harta sepencarian, nafkah dan hak penjagaan anak-anak kami. Namun begitu, bekas isteri menyatakan saya tidak ada hak langsung dalam menuntut harta sepencarian. Adakah perkara ini benar? Dan bukan niat saya untuk lepas tanggugjawab terhadap bekas isteri dan anak-anak. Saya hanya perlukan kepastian. Semoga jawapan yang diberi dapat dikongsi bersama dengan pembaca yang lain terutamanya para suami. Tolong beri penjelasan kepada saya.

Seksyen 13, Shah Alam

Jawapan :

Perkahwinan boleh dianggap sebagai satu usahasama antara suami dan isteri. Namun, ada rumahtangga yang dibina bermasalah dan tidak berpanjangan. Masalah ini boleh timbul daripada pelbagai punca sama ada disebabkan faktor keadaan atau kesesuaian dalam menyempurnakan tanggungjawab dan peranan masing-masing.

Walaupun perkahwinan tersebut putus di tengah jalan, Islam sebagai agama yang adil telah menetapkan hak-hak yang wajib dituntut atau diterima bagi mengimbangi kehidupan hamba-hambanya. Hak-hak yang dimaksudkan khususnya selepas sesuatu penceraian adalah seperti harta sepencarian, nafkah iddah isteri, mutaah, nafkah anak-anak, hak penjagaan anak dan lain-lain.

Isu mengenai harta isteri dan harta suami masih lagi tidak jelas kedudukannya lebih-lebih lagi dalam hal pembahagian harta sepencarian. Secara amnya, harta sepencarian pada asalnya diambil daripada adat resam Melayu yang telah diterimapakai oleh masyarakat setempat. Penerimaan adat resam ini menurut perspektif Islam menyatakan bahawa apabila sesuatu adat atau uruf diakui kebaikannya dan telah diberi pengiktirafan undang-undang, kedudukannya tidak lagi sebagai adat, tetapi telah menjadi suatu peraturan atau perundangan yang mesti diikuti dan dikuatkuasakan. 

Harta sepencarian berdasarkan Hukum Syara’ ditafsirkan sebagai pemerolehan harta sepanjang tempoh perkahwinan sama ada membabitkan harta alih atau tak alih dan pihak yang memberi sumbangan sama ada secara langsung atau tidak langsung.  Maka, pembahagian harta sepencarian menunjukkan pengiktirafan Syara’ terhadap hak, habuan dan pemilikan pihak berusaha mendapatkan harta itu sepanjang perkahwinan. Pembahagian itu dibuat bersandarkan kemaslahatan pihak atas prinsip keadilan dan hak.

Tuntutan terhadap harta sepencarian bukanlah dihadkan kepada isteri saja, malah suami juga berhak menuntut harta sepencarian daripada isteri. Jika diteliti tafsiran ini, ia menunjukkan bahawa harta yang sama-sama diperolehi oleh suami isteri, bukannya harta yang diperolehi oleh isteri sahaja ataupun harta yang diperolehi oleh suami sahaja.

Manakala dari perspektif undang-undang, seksyen 122(1) Enakmen Undang-Undang Keluarga Islam (Selangor) 2003 memperuntukan bahawa mahkamah mempunyai kuasa apabila membenarkan lafaz talak atau apabila membuat suatu perintah perceraian untuk memerintah supaya aset yang diperoleh dalam masa perkahwinan dengan usaha bersama dibahagikan antara mereka atau supaya aset yang diperoleh pihak itu dalam masa perkahwinan dengan usaha bersama mereka dibahagikan antara mereka atau supaya mana-mana aset itu dijual dan dibahagikan antara pihak-pihak itu. Manakala seksyen 122(2) merujuk kepada faktor-faktor yang diambilkira oleh mahkamah dalam permbahagian harta sepencarian tersebut. Antara perkara yang ambilkira oleh mahkamah adalah:
•    Takat sumbangan yang dibuat tiap-tiap satu pihak dalam bentuk wang, harta, atau kerja bagi memperoleh aset itu;
•    Apa-apa yang terhutang oleh salah satu pihak yang telah dilakukan bagi manfaat bersama mereka;
•    Keperluan anak yang belum dewasa daripada perkahwinan itu, jika ada.

Tertakluk kepada seksyen 122(2), mahkamah juga boleh memerintahkan supaya aset itu dijual dan hasil jualan dibahagikan sama rata antara kedua pihak sebagaimana dinyatakan dalam seksyen 122(3). Manakala seksyen 122(4), mahkamah dengan kuasa yang ada boleh membahagikan aset itu atau hasil jualan mengikut apa-apa kadar yang difikirkan munasabah, tetapi walau bagaimanapun, pihak yang memperoleh aset itu dengan usahanya hendaklah menerima suatu kadar yang lebih besar.

Oleh itu, walaupun harta itu atas nama isteri sahaja, tetapi jika saudara berjaya membuktikan kepada mahkamah bahawa saudara juga ada menyumbang terhadap harta tersebut, maka mahkamah akan memutuskan bahawa itu adalah harta sepencarian. Merujuk Kitab At-Turuq al-Hukmiyah karya Ibnu Qayyim al-Juziyyah mengatakan, dalam tuntutan suami isteri membabitkan harta sepencarian, tuntutan hendaklah berdasarkan keterangan pihak yang membuktikan tuntutan itu. Kenyataan mengenai hak terhadap harta sepencarian bukan hanya diambilkira berdasarkan nama harta itu didaftarkan semata-mata sedangkan pihak satu lagi mungkin menyumbang cuma namanya tiada dalam daftar hakmilik harta itu.

Namun begitu, Hukum Syarak menetapkan bahawa suami tidak ada hak ke atas harta mutlak isteri, contohnya harta isteri yang diperolehi melalui harta pusaka daripada keluarganya. Selain itu, harta-harta perseorangan yang dibeli sebelum perkahwinan dan harta-harta tersebut tidak diusahakan bersama sepanjang tempoh perkahwinan juga bukan harta sepencarian. Saudara juga perlu memastikan bahawa harta-harta itu adalah harta perolehan bersama dan bukan hadiah atau hibah yang dihadiahkan kepada bekas isteri. Oleh itu, saudara tidak boleh menuntut hadiah yang telah diberikannya kepada bekas isteri sebagai harta sepencarian.

Menurut satu hadis yang diriwayatkan oleh al-Tirmizi dan al-Hakim yang bermaksud:

“Tidak halal bagi seseorang menuntut balik sesuatu pemberian atau barang yang telah dihibahkannya kepada orang lain kecuali dia adalah ayah yang mana ayah boleh menuntut balik ke atas pemberian yang diberikan kepada anaknya.”

Diharap segala penjelasan dan informasi yang diberi dapat membantu saudara dalam memahami konsep hak dan pembahagian harta sepencarian. Perlu diberi perhatian bahawa Hukum Syara’ dan undang-undang ini bertujuan untuk memelihara kedua-dua hak suami dan isteri. Selanjutnya, pihak kami mengalu-alukan sebarang pertanyaan atau kemusykilan mengenai perkara-perkara berkaitan.
Husband not being fair after polygamy
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My husband had taken a second wife without my consent. Since then, he has neglected to pay me the maintenance that he used to give before his second marriage. Not only that, since his second marriage, he also sometimes fails to pay the children's maintenance. When I lodged a complaint with the Religious Office, one of the ustazahs from the polygamy department told me that when a wife works, the husband's consent for her to work can be used to replace the monthly maintenance that is compulsory for him to pay. So, what are my rights as a wife? Is it true that a husband is not required to pay for maintenance for wives who work? Is my husband not being fair by not providing me with maintenance like he did prior to taking a second wife?

Taman Miharja


Polygamy is allowed under Malaysian law but there must have been permission given by the Syariah Court. This is provided under Section 23 (1) if the Islamic Family Law (Federal Territories) Act 1984.

Pursuant to Sections 23 (3) and (4) of the Act, in giving said permission to enter into a polygamous marriage, the Court will consider several factors. Among those factors are: whether the polygamous marriage is just and necessary, the financial situation of the husband, whether or not the husband would be able to act fairly towards the wives, whether or not the consent and views of the existing wives have been obtained and that the marriage will not cause darar syarie upon the existing wife.

In your case, if your husband has taken another wife without the Court's permission, it is considered to be an offence under the law. Pursuant to Section 123 of the same Act, if he is charged and convicted of the offence, he can be fined for an amount not exceeding RM1000 or imprisoned for a period not exceeding 6 months, or both.

Even though the law states that you are required to attend in Court for the purpose of obtaining your views prior to giving your husband the permission to take another wife, it is merely a factor that the Court would consider. It is not the determining factor for the Court to give permission for your husband to engage in a polygamous marriage.

However, your husband has to prove that he has fulfilled all the requirements and conditions under Section 23 of the same Act. This was decided by the Selangor Appeal Committee in the case of Rajamah v. Abd Wahab (1990) JH 171. Because the husband failed to prove that he can fulfill all the said conditions and requirements, the Court decided to reject the husband's application for permission to take another wife.

In a polygamous marriage or not, it is the responsibility of the husband to provide for the wife's and children's maintenance. Surah Al-Nisaa verse 34 which means: The men will take care of the women, because Allah has given more to the men compared to the women, and because the men has spent (provide maintenance to support women) from part of their property.

Polygamy should not be made as an excuse to not provide for maintenance. For this reason, the Syariah Courts in Malaysia set the rule that a husband has to obtain the Court's permission before entering into a polygamous marriage. This is to avoid injustice committed against the existing wife and her family. Justice is the most important aspect of a polygamous marriage. Allah in Surah Al-Nisaa verse 3 said as follows: "If you fear that you would not be able to be fair and just towards your wives then marry only one."

The law has provided that the Court has the power to order a husband to pay maintenance to his wife and children. Section 59 (1) provides for this power. Therefore, you may make an application with the Syariah Court for an Order against your husband to pay maintenance. You may state that maintenance has not been received ever since your husband took a second wife as grounds for the application. You have to list down the items for which maintenance is being asked, for example, electrical bills, water bills, telephone bills, your children's bus fares, their school fees, their daily school expenses, clothes, household needs, your daily expenses and so on. The husband's duty to provide maintenance to his wife and children continues even though the wife has her own income. It does not mean that the husband can let go of his responsibilities by not providing maintenance.

Section 128 of the same Act provides that a husband who does not act fairly towards his wife has committed an offence and can be fined for an amount not exceeding RM1000 or imprisoned for a period not exceeding 6 months or both.

Even though you have lodged a complaint with the Religious Office, that office only plays a role in providing counselling or advice regarding the problems you face. You have to go to the Syariah Court in order to demand for maintenance because only the Syariah Court has the power to make an order to compel your husband to pay maintenance for you and your children.

You are advised to seek for justice in the Syariah Court as it is clear that your husband is not being fair to you and your children upon him taking another wife.

Panel lawyers, Sisters In Islam.

(You are welcome to post your queries to Sisters In Islam at No. 7, Jalan 6/10, 46000 Petaling Jaya Selangor or call our TeleNisa line 03-7784 3733 every Monday, Thursday and Friday or e-mail us at
Review of "hudud" proposals
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Review of "hudud" proposals

23 May 2002

While it is encouraging to note the statement by the Terengganu state authorities (reported in NST, The Sun and Utusan Malaysia, 23 May 2002) that it is willing to postpone the tabling of the "hudud" bill to the July session in order to make some amendments to certain provisions of the bill, based on the responses and feedback that it has received from the public, we wish to point out that an overall review of the conceptual framework of the proposals as a whole should also be conducted.

All along, the PAS state governments of both Terengganu and Kelantan have repeatedly claimed that their version of the "hudud" law is the Divine Law of God. The very fact that glaring contradictions have been exposed between some of their proposed provisions with the actual letter and spirit of the Qur'an and authentic hadith may also raise serious doubts as to the propriety and conformity of the other provisions with the true spirit of the Divine Sources of the syariah.

It must be clearly understood that there is a vast difference between the divine sources of Islamic law-the direct revelations in the holy Qur'an-and the non-divine sources, which are the result of human juristic interpretations and opinions. A large part of historical Islamic jurisprudence is man-made, not divine. The formation and development of Islamic law took place over several centuries and through a variety of processes. The founding of the four orthodox schools of law began at least 100 years after the death of the Prophet (saw.).

To ensure the realisation of a just system of law based on the eternal and universal fundamental principles of Islam, very careful study and detailed re-examination needs to be carried out into the provisions of the proposed hudud laws. It is indeed most tragic that Qur'anic injunctions that are intended to protect all law-abiding members of society in general, and women in particular, have been distorted into legal provisions that have lead to the very opposite results in some Muslim countries which are claiming to implement the syariah criminal law. The provisions of the hudud proposals should also be re-examined in the context of universal Islamic human rights concepts.

It should always be remembered that God's forgiveness and mercy (for both men and women) is a constant and recurring theme that is emphasised in the holy Qur'an. For instance, after the punishments for sariqah or theft (in Surah Al-Maidah) and for zina and qazaf (in Surah An-Nur) are laid down, God's forgiveness and mercy is mentioned:

those who afterward repent and amend their conduct, God is Oft-Forgiving, Most Merciful (Surah Al-Maidah 5 : 39, Surah An-Nur 24 : 5).

Should human beings and human-made institutions therefore hasten to punish what God, in plentiful mercy, may ultimately, even amply, pardon? On what grounds, we may ask, should humans presume impetuously to do so, pre-empting Divine Mercy. Even those of the most sincere and correct motivation, and even if they are operating on the basis of unquestionable legislation, and through legislative and judicial institutions of irreproachable integrity and ability, (which is not often the case in this very imperfect world), should be cautious of joining in any overzealous rush to judgment.

1. Sisters in Islam
2. All Women's Action Society (AWAM)
3. Association of Women Lawyers (AWL)
4. Wanita Ikram, Persatuan Komuniti Ikram, Kuala Lumpur
5. Majlis Pertubuhan Ibu-Ibu Tunggal Malaysia
6. National Council of Women's Organisatioms (NCWO)
7. Wijadi
8. Women's Aid Organisation (WAO)
9. Women's Candidacy Initiative (WCI)
10.Women's Crisis Center (WCC)
11.Women Development Collective (WDC)
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