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Awards for homophobia and misogyny in Malaysia (26 June 2012)
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Awards for homophobia and misogyny in Malaysia

Welcome dose of irony at award show for sexist, misogynist, homophobic and transphobic comments by public figures in Malaysia
26 June 2012 | By Anna Leach
The organizing team of the Aiyoh... Wat Lah?! Awards
Who won the prize in Kuala Lumpur on Sunday? Was it the education minister who warned teachers and parents how to prevent ‘cases of LGBT’ in schools? Or the judge who fined a transgender woman for ‘dressing in women’s clothing and having feminine mannerism’?

Neither of these incidents were in fact recognised by the inaugural Aiyoh… Wat Lah?! (a Malaysia expression of disbelief) awards - not because they don’t fit the award criteria, but because they happened this week, not in 2011.

At the award show on Sunday at the Annexe Gallery in Kuala Lumpur, Ribena Berry (aka actor and writer Jo Kukathas) gave prizes in seven categories to ‘public examples of misogyny, sexism, homophobia and transphobia’ that happened last year in Malaysia.

The awards are a refreshing dose of irony in a country where NGOs to organize an ‘anti-LGBT’ rally, the government suggests banning gay characters from TV and politicians call for gay ‘rehab’ centers to be set up.

‘These outrageous comments have always been there,’ Smita Sharma, programme officer for All Women's Action Society, one of the groups who organized the awards, told Gay Star News. ‘We thought we need a more creative way of reaching out to the media and the public [other than press statements].

We’re just saying, look, this is ridiculous. It's a bad, bad joke. And one with horrible implications for women and others who are discriminated against on a daily basis.’

In the Insulting Intelligence category nominations included the claim that homosexuality is unconstitutional because it goes against Islam by de facto law minister Nazri Aziz.

‘While the Constitution may recognise Islam as the religion of the federation, this does not mean that something that is perceived as un-Islamic is unconstitutional,’ corrected the judges under the banner the Joint Action Group on Gender Equality (JAG). ‘Furthermore, there is no law in the country that criminalises homosexuality per se.’

But the winner in that category was the words of MP Ibrahim Ali who attributed the high rate of extramarital affairs to ‘wives who neglect their responsibilities to their husbands’.

The Policy Fail category ‘awarded’ not just words, but action. It was won by a state-run boot camp to ‘cure’ teenage boys of effeminate behavior.

The awards weren’t all about negative examples. The Right on Track category celebrated a progressive decision by a (female) judge which set a precedent for protecting women's rights in Malaysia.

High Court Judge Zaleha Yusof ruled in July 2011 that the sacking of a woman purely because she was pregnant was discriminatory and against the UN’s Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW).

‘You never expect that someone is going to make such a progressive ruling,’ said Sharma. ‘It was wonderful. Everyone was just elated and thinking - there is hope in our courts! It set a precedent because this was the first time someone said that Malaysia ratifying the CEDAW convention makes the treaty binding for the Malaysian government. This compels the government to recognize this standard of rights for women.’

In second place for the Right on Track category was unexpected statement from the Malaysian Consultative Council of Buddhism, Christianity, Hinduism, Sikhism and Taoism that condemned the police ban on the sexual minorities Seksualiti Merdeka festival in November 2011.

‘This was really really important,’ said Sharma. ‘At a time when so many anti-LGBT statements were made, to have a religious body say that any kind of hate speech or any kind of attempt to curtail right to freedom of assembly is unacceptable, was really amazing.’

Sharma says it’s too early to say whether the Aiyoh… Wat Lah? awards will become an annual occurrence. What is sure is that there is already plenty of material in 2012 from politicians. She said:

‘Just last week this one politician said, and I quote, “I don't think beautiful girls will want the indelible ink [from voting] to mar their pretty hands or nails. How are they supposed to paint their nails afterwards? They might not even want to meet their boyfriend's after voting. They might not even vote. Women should rise up and protest against the implementation of indelible ink.” As far as I'm concerned, that is already the winner of the Insulting Intelligence category.’
MP of Sri Gading suggestion to hang Ambiga (29 June 2012)
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MP of Sri Gading suggestion to hang Ambiga
29 June 2012

The Joint Action Group for Gender Equality (JAG) is alarmed at the escalating level of attacks towards senior lawyer and human rights activist Dato’ Ambiga Sreenivasan who has been subjected to all manner of abuse lately.

The latest attack is by Sri Gading MP Datuk Mohamad Aziz who on June 26 had asked in Parliament whether Dato’ Ambiga should be “considered a traitor to the nation and should be sentenced to be hanged”

Such a remark, by a legislator no less, is shockingly offensive and violent to the extreme. It violates basic standards of decency expected of parliamentarians and shows a deep lack of understanding of the democratic process. A call for free and fair elections is a democratic right in a democratic country. That attacks on Dato’ Ambiga are selective in its approach has not gone unnoticed either.

Although the said MP has since retracted his remark and apologised to his BN colleagues in MIC and PPP, he did not apologise to Dato’ Ambiga. This lack of courtesy is unacceptable and should be condemned by all decent Malaysians.

Noticeably silent throughout the sustained attack against Dato’ Ambiga is the Prime Minister, forcing us to wonder if he condones such downright uncivilised behaviour. JAG is of the opinion that government leaders should focus their efforts on upholding justice, equality, civil liberty and democracy in Malaysia and not behave in a manner which betrays these principles.

Released by the Joint Action Group for Gender Equality, which comprises:
All Women's Action Society (AWAM)
Perak Women for Women Society (PWW)
Persatuan Kesedaran Komuniti Selangor (EMPOWER)
Persatuan Sahabat Wanita Selangor (PSWS)
Sabah Women’s Action Resource Group (SAWO)
Sisters in Islam (SIS)
Women's Aid Organisation (WAO)
Women’s Centre for Change, Penang (WCC)
Gender stereotyping of women: stop controlling women’s appearance and behaviour (29 June 2012)
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Gender stereotyping of women: stop controlling women’s appearance and behaviour
29 June 2012

The Joint Action Group for Gender Equality (JAG) is alarmed at the discriminatory treatment of women, the most recent involving news anchor Ras Adiba Mohd Radzi and Ampang MP, YB Zuraida Kamaruddin.

On June 26, it was reported that Ras Adiba was suspended by television station NTV7 for cropping her hair in support of Makna's (National Cancer Council of Malaysia) Jom Botak cancer awareness campaign. A source within NTV7 was reported to have said that it felt the need “to upkeep a certain look and feel" of the station, and that a bald woman would not be presentable as news anchor.

NTV7’s stand perpetuates the gender stereotyping of women. Instead of recognising the presenter’s skills, experience and active role for a worthy cause, the station focused on the superficial issue of length of hair.

JAG is also disturbed about the anonymous calls allegedly made from a religious department to Ras Adiba, all of which referred to a fatwa prohibiting women from shaving their heads. Instead of encouraging empathy with those in need, a virtue integral to all religions including Islam, the persons who had called were fixated on how a woman should appear.

This brand of harassment is reminiscent of the National Fatwa Council’s fatwa against "tomboys", a word defined so vaguely as to describe almost any number of Malaysian women.

The disturbing message is that women who do not look or behave according to a narrow prescribed definition of ‘femininity’ will face sanction.

In a similar vein, on 24 June 2012 YB Zuraida Kamaruddin was described by the Prime Ministeras “tak sayang mulut” and was accused of behaviour unbecoming of a woman. This occurred when she was posing a question to him on the neglect of numerous initiatives for women, such as gender mainstreaming, gender sensitisation and the 30% quota for women in top management.

Such comments by the Prime Minister, who is also the Women’s Minister, do not become his office.

JAG calls for an immediate halt to all similar degrading comments and policies. Instead of promoting archaic views on how women should dress and behave, the media and policymakers should highlight and address the pressing issues that affect women’s lives.

Released by the Joint Action Group for Gender Equality, which comprises:

All Women's Action Society (AWAM)
Perak Women for Women Society (PWW)
Persatuan Kesedaran Komuniti Selangor (EMPOWER)

Persatuan Sahabat Wanita Selangor (PSWS)

Sabah Women’s Action Resource Group (SAWO)

Sisters in Islam (SIS)
Women's Aid Organisation (WAO)
Women’s Centre for Change, Penang (WCC)
Court postpones decision on SIS book ban reversal (25 June 2012)
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Court postpones decision on SIS book ban reversal

UPDATED @ 09:53:40 PM 25-06-2012
June 25, 2012
KUALA LUMPUR, June 25 — The Court of Appeal today delayed its decision on the the status of a book published by Sisters In Islam (SIS) to July 27, which was banned about four years ago.

The book, titled “Muslim Women and the Challenges of Islamic Extremism”, was banned by the Home Ministry on July 21, 2008 on the grounds that it would threaten public order.

The ban was challenged in court where High Court judge Mohamad Ariff Md Yusof overturned the government’s decision on January 25, 2010.

However, the government filed an appeal against the High Court decision on February 3, 2010, more than two years ago.

“The case was heard in full, but the judges deferred their decision to July 27 because they wanted to consider the matter further,” Suri Kempe from SIS told The Malaysian Insider when contacted today.

Both sides were able to make their submissions, with the Attorney General’s Chambers (AGC) raising three arguments on behalf of the government, said Suri.

She said the AGC’s first contention was that the High Court judge went beyond his jurisdiction.

It further asserted “the High Court judge was too restrictive in the reading of the word ‘public order’”, saying he should have allowed for the word “likelihood” when interpreting Section 7 of the Printing Presses and Publications Act.

SIS had earlier pointed out that that during the book’s circulation two years before the ban, “there was no evidence that public order had been threatened as a result of the book’s contents”.

The last argument raised by the AGC was that SIS and the respondents had no legal right to be heard as the Act did not contain such a provision.

Suri said SIS’s lawyer, Malik Imtiaz Sarwar (picture), had rebutted the first point by saying “the judge recognised his role in judicial review and that he centred his judgment on the ban order itself.”

Malik also told the court that the home minister’s ban had “encroached (upon) a fundamental right of the publisher” and made the right to be heard even more important.
SIS had last week said the book is a compilation of scholarly essays and “highlights areas and approaches that are problematic with regards to the administration of Islam in Malaysia, in particular the implementation of Islamic Family Law and syariah criminal laws.” Presiding over today’s hearing were Datuk Abdul Wahab Patail, Datuk Clement Allan Skinner and Mah Weng Kwai.
Eight reasons why books should not be banned (24 June 2012)
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Eight reasons why books should not be banned

June 24, 2012

JUNE 24 — On Monday, June 25, 2012, Sisters in Islam (SIS) will be in court again. This time around, the Government of Malaysia is appealing a High Court decision that lifted the ban on a book published by SIS, “Muslim Women and the Challenge of Extremism.”

The book was first banned on July 31, 2008, on the premise that it was “prejudicial to public order.” Other reasons cited by the Ministry of Home Affairs were fears that the book would “confuse Muslims, particularly Muslim women” and “those with shallow knowledge of Islam.” SIS appealed against the decision, and on January 25, 2010, Justice Mohamad Ariff Md. Yusof lifted the ban. His reasoning was that there was no evidence that the book had created a public order problem during the two years it had been in circulation.

He also concluded that the minister’s decision was “an error in law” — that the decision was illegal, irrational, and “wholly disproportionate” — to the argument made.

Justice Ariff’s decision was significant as it applied two recent Federal Court decisions which ruled that the court had the right to objectively review a minister’s discretion to be unreasonable.

However heart-warming the Honourable Judge’s decision was, it is disconcerting to note that book-banning in Malaysia is not an isolated practice. Over the years, we have seen a host of other books axed, the most recent being Irshad Manji’s “Allah, Liberty and Love.”  She is joined by a long list of international and local authors, including John Esposito and Karen Armstrong (two Christian academics considered among the most sympathetic to Islam), Khalil Gibran, Kassim Ahmad, Faisal Tehrani and cartoonist Zunar. What is even more alarming today is that the religious authorities are using provisions under the Syariah Criminal Offences law to charge a book store manager for selling a book they deem “offensive.”

While the list of books being banned is growing, the reasons given for their banning are not. The most oft-repeated reasons include the “tendency to confuse”, “tarnishing the sanctity of Islam”, “contrary to a fatwa” or “causing suspicion and public anxiety.”

Book-banning is the precursor to far more dangerous and insidious developments. The collateral damage created in such a climate of paranoia is only to our detriment.Here are eight fundamental reasons why book-banning should stop.

1. Ban a book, close a mind
Book-banning is an attempt to stop free flow of thought, ideas and information, usually the kind that does not conform to mainstream views. In Malaysia, the argument is that these ideas may potentially create confusion, disrupt public order, and/or are allegedly against a religion.History shows that many banned publications are now visionary and brave observations that promoted “sacrilegious” ideas, for example, the idea that the Earth is round, not flat. Choking knowledge is one effect of book-banning but there is deeper injury inflicted on society.It sends a menacing signal, eventually nurturing fear of knowledge. A frightened mind is a closed mind, one that cannot create or produce a bright future.

2. What on earth are we thinking?
Authorities that ban books ostensibly believe that people cannot think for themselves. When people are barred from thinking, ideas are created in isolation. These inevitably clash with reality, or have no connection to it.Ironically, this is a key factor that creates confusion in society, creating fertile ground for the very same disorder the authorities claim they are trying to prevent. Allowing free flow of thought, however, gives individuals the opportunity to engage and interact with new ideas, creating vibrant intellectual activity and discernment. Robust ideas will withstand critique and argument.

3. Two thumbs down for the education system?
A good education system produces individuals who can think critically and with conscience. The widespread banning of books is an acknowledgement of the failure of the existing education system.It is a clear signal that we have failed to produce Malaysians who can tell the difference between knowledge and ignorance. Ironically (once again) the authorities’ actions indicate that the problem lies not in the book, but in an education system that produces easily confused, disruptive and disrespectful citizens.

4. A monopoly of ideas
In a democratic society, it is only logical that those who are responsible for public administration must always be open to criticism. In fact, as citizens we have the right to voice our opinions, more so on the policies that govern and impact our daily lives.However, when an authority perceives its interpretations or solutions are challenged, book-banning provides a means by which to stifle this criticism. In Malaysia and in the context of Islam in particular, book-banning is an attempt by the religious authorities to monopolise the discourse to only those who subscribe to one particular point of view.Freedom of expression is a universal value guaranteed by the Federal Constitution, the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and upheld in the teachings of Islam.

5. Irksome, ineffective and irrelevant
The ostensible reason for banning a book is to stop it from being read. But all publicity is good publicity. A ban merely arouses curiosity and books that otherwise would not have garnered much interest will now be sought out by many more online.Moreover, barriers to information have been decimated by the Internet. Not only can one buy a banned book online, one can easily gather the “taboo” information with a few smart search words. A single email from one individual to another can go viral, hitting the inboxes and social media accounts of thousands worldwide.This phenomenon is anything but new. Those who think books should be banned are simply exposing themselves as commodities that have long passed their sell-by date.

6. Is this where our taxes go?
When a book is banned, the relevant government authorities mobilise resources, both human and financial, to raid bookstores and publishers, and seize the books. The cost of this exercise in futility is borne by the taxpayers when funds should instead be spent in ways that enrich, not cripple, the rakyat.

7. The knowledge economy
We hear much about Malaysia becoming a knowledge-based society in mainstream news, an idea that is publicly promoted by authorities. The banning of books and the knowledge and ideas within them is in direct contradiction to realising this goal.A stunted mind cannot be a resource for growth in a knowledge economy and will leave Malaysia far behind, as the world races ahead towards a higher quality of life.

8. Fundamental liberties in Islam
Islam is clearly based on principles of justice, equality and fairness. All the points above show
Government Appeal on KL High Court Decision on SIS Book (23 June 2012)
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Government Appeal on KL High Court Decision on SIS Book

On 25 June 2012, the Court of Appeal will hear the Minister of Home Affairs’ appeal against the High Court decision to lift the ban on a book published by Sisters in Islam (SIS).

The book, Muslim Women and the Challenges of Islamic Extremism was first banned by the Government on 21 July 2008. High Court judge Justice Mohamad Ariff Md Yusof overturned the ban on 25 January 2010, ruling that the book is not a threat to public order. The High Court’s decision was appealed by the Government on 3 February 2010.

In his full written judgement, the learned Judge explained there are no objective facts to show that the book would “disturb public order, confuse Muslim women or confuse those with shallow knowledge of Islam”. Moreover, the book had been in circulation for over two years prior to the ban. During this time, there was no evidence that public order had been threatened as a result of the book’s contents.

He also concluded that the Minister's decision constituted "an error in law"  on the grounds of  'illegality' and 'irrationality' and that it was  'wholly disproportionate' to the concern expressed.

The book is a compilation of essays based on research carried out by renowned international scholars and activists. As Justice Mohamad Ariff rightly pointed out, the book is academic in nature. It highlights areas and approaches that are problematic with regards to the administration of Islam in Malaysia, in particular the implementation of Islamic Family Law and the Syariah Criminal laws.

These essays attempt to discuss issues that are related to the rights of Muslim women. The ability to maintain these rights are inexorably intertwined with freedom of expression. We must be able to openly discuss, without fear, critical issues that are related to Muslim women, in particular when they impact our everyday lives. In reversing the ban, the judge effectively safeguarded not only a constitutional liberty, namely freedom of expression, but a means by which to uphold women’s rights.

SIS maintains that Justice Mohamad Ariff’s decision was courageous, principled and commendable. We hope the Court of Appeal will honour and stand by the judicious decision made by the High Court.

Sisters in Islam

23 June 2012
Attack on Monogamy Campaign (30 July 2013)
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Attack on Monogamy Campaign

SIS(Sisters in Islam)is disturbed by the insulting and misogynistic attack on our monogamy campaign made by a man who is clearly ignorant not only regarding our campaign, but also regarding the concept of marriage according to the divine principles of the syariah as provided in the Qur'an and Sunnah of the Prophet s.a.w.

This man refers to polygamy as "divine rights endowed to Muslim men". Does he think that in the pre-Islamic Jahiliyah society in the Age of Ignorance, a man could only have one wife, and the Qur'an was revealed to "endow" men with the "rights" to have up to four wives? For his information, even the most basic look at history will show that in the pre-Islamic society, men were practising unlimited polygamy -- a man could have any number of wives that he pleased -- and it was the Qur'anic revelation which introduced reforms by restricting the maximum number of wives to four, as well as by commanding monogamy if there is fear of injustice to the women. Surah an-Nisa’ 4 : 3 states to the effect that:

If you fear that you shall not be able to deal justly with the orphans, marry women of your choice, two or three or four, but if you fear that you shall not be able to deal justly (with them) then only one … that will be more suitable to prevent you from doing injustice.

Moreover, this verse in Surah an-Nisa’ was revealed after a battle (the Uhud battle) which had resulted in many men being killed, leaving behind many war widows and war orphans. As the breadwinners were chiefly men, the widows found it difficult to provide for their children. It was in this context that polygamy was tolerated in Islam, to provide for the welfare of widows and their orphaned children. In fact, it is remarkable that even in that post-war situation, the Qur’an discontinued the then-existing practice of unlimited polygamy.

From the historical point of view, polygamy was an institution that existed not only in pre-Islamic Arabia, but also in various civilizations, religions and cultures in many parts of the world. Polygamy was practised among the Jews, Chinese, Indian and Mormon Christians, until it was abolished by the laws. For instance, the United States of America banned polygamy under the Anti-Bigamy Act of 1862, and the Mormon Church officially renounced polygamy in 1907 after their efforts to challenge the law in the Supreme Court were unsuccessful. In Malaysia also, polygamy was practised among the Chinese and Indian Hindu communities until it was forbidden under the Law Reform (Marriage and Divorce) Act which came into force in 1982.

Unfortunately, with the abolition of polygamy among the people of other faiths, confusion has arisen among the ignorant members of the Muslim community who now regard polygamy as "divine rights endowed to Muslim men". As a result, those who are conscious of the true divine principles of the syariah and object to the abuse of polygamy  are subjected to insulting attacks by such ignoramus.

Those who support polygamy often refer to the Sunnah (practice) of the Prophet (s.a.w.) and are probably ignorant of the fact that the Prophet (s.a.w.) was monogamous for more than twenty five years, i.e. throughout the lifetime of his first wife Siti Khadija (r.a.) and that his polygamous marriages after her death were to widowed or divorced women for political and tribal reasons. The only virgin he married was his second wife, Aishah (r.a.). There is also an authentic Tradition that the Prophet (s.a.w.) forbade his son-in-law, Ali ibn Abi Talib (r.a.) from marrying another woman unless Ali first divorces the Prophet’s daughter, Fatimah (r.a.)  A great-granddaughter of the Prophet (s.a.w), Sakinah binti Hussein, a granddaughter of Ali and Fatimah, put various conditions in her marriage contract, including the condition that her husband would have no right to take another wife during their marriage

It is therefore clear that giving a wife such an option for obtaining a divorce through the marriage contract or ta’liq is not against Islamic teachings. It is not a new interpretation which has only arisen in these modern times. On the contrary, it is supported by traditional practices from the early days of Islam. It is not an innovation introducing anything that is unlawful, since divorce by ta’liq is also lawfulin Islam.

The ignoramus who assume that polygamy is a divine right endowed to Muslim men apparently assume that unilateral right to divorce is also a divine right endowed to Muslim men. Does he think that in the pre-Islamic Jahiliyah society, men were unable to divorce their wives unilaterally, and the Qur'an was revealed to endow men with the unilateral right to divorce their wives as and when they please? For his information, the Qur'anic verses on divorce were revealed to impose some form of control on the men's pre-existing unilateral right of divorce. Surah al-Baqarah 2 : 229 states to the effect that:

the parties should either hold together on equitable terms (ma’ruf), or separate with kindness (ihsan)

The Qur'an also recommends arbitration as a means for resolving disputes between an estranged couple, and in this process, equal rights are granted to the husband and wife as Surah an-Nisa’ 4 : 35 provides that:

If you fear a breach between a married couple appoint (two) arbiters, one from among his people, and the other from among her people

The rights of divorced women are also safeguarded in the Qur'anic provisions. In addition to the iddah maintenance for a period of three to four months, there is a clear general injunction for the payment of reasonable compensation or financial provision (mut’ah). There is no specific form or limit for mut'ah, in Surah al-Baqarah 2 : 241 which states that:

For divorced women mut’ah (financial provision) (should be provided) on a reasonable (scale), this is a duty on the righteous.

The misogynist who attacks our monogamy campaign also attacks the whole issue of women's status in Islam, in his unwarranted, sarcastic and insulting remarks on the possibility of women wanting to marry up to a maximum of four, and on women being granted a unilateral right of divorce. His remarks on women wanting to marry up to a maximum of four is beneath contempt. However, regarding women's unilateral right of divorce however, for his information, historical research has shown some remarkable individual marriage contracts in the early days of Islam, where the husband had agreed that the wife should be equally entitled to dissolve the marriage unilaterally. This right through the marriage contract, known as 'isma, is discussed in classical Islamic jurisprudence and accepted by some of the classical jurists.

The pathetic mindset of some ignorant members of the Muslim community today has brought Islam and syariah into disrepute. These ignoramuses apparently think that the concepts of justice and equality between men and women in the family are notions foreign to Islam.  They pay lip service about not being "against women", but their whole attitude reveal the hypocrisy of such lip service, and their deep seated misogyny with their self-contradictory  assertions.  They accuse women who seek to expose the realities of injustice and suffering resulting from unfair practices by irresponsible men as stupid and absurd. These misogynists claim "divine rights endowed to Muslim men" without being aware of what is actually the letter and spirit of the divine revelations.

Sisters In Islam
30 July 2013

22 January 2002

In reference to the letter “It isn’t polygamy but the way its practiced” in New Straits Times, 14 January 2002, saying it is wrong and offensive to recommend a ban on polygamy for Muslims because it is the sunnah of the Prophet, we would like to correct the many misunderstandings about Prophets practice of polygamy.

Many Muslims who regard polygamy as the Sunnah of the Prophet (saw), forget or fail to fully understand the type of polygamy that the Prophet practised. First of all, the Prophet himself was monogamous throughout his 25 year marriage to his first wife Khadijah (r.a.), and his polygamous marriages after her death in the tenth year of his prophethood were to widowed or divorced women for political or tribal reasons. The only virgin he married was his second wife, Aishah (r.a.). He married a total of 11 times, and most of his marriages were to elderly widowed or divorced women with children, entered into for political and tribal reasons. The Prophet married his nine wives after Aishah within a space of 5 years and never divorced any of the women he was married to. The Prophet did not marry younger and prettier women to fulfill his desires. In fact, he practised polygamy within the realm of spreading Islam to the communities at the time. Unlike the other men, the Prophet was allowed to keep all his wives after the maximum four wives limit was imposed upon the previous practice of unlimited polygamy, but he was eventually prohibited from adding to his wives or divorcing any of them with a view to taking another wife in her stead (Surah al-Ahzab 33 : 52).

Many, if not most, polygamous marriages today share almost nothing in common with the Sunnah of the Prophet. It would be unjust and offensive for those who contract polygamous marriages today to even compare their justification for polygamy to the reasons that the Prophet practised it. Moreover, considering the Prophet’s monogamous marriage with Khadijah, if one were to strictly follow the sunnah of the Prophet, it would appear that a man should not take another wife at all during the lifetime of his first wife!

Many Muslims also forget the significance of the authentic hadith reported in Sunan ibn Majah that that even though the Prophet himself practised polygamy, he did not allow his son-in-law Saidina Ali ibn Abi Talib, to marry another woman “unless and until Ali ibn Abi Talib divorces my daughter (Fatimah) for surely she is part of me and what troubles and agitates her, troubles and agitates me too; and what harm befalls her befalls me too.”

It would therefore appear from this tradition that the first wife is fully entitled not only to know about the proposed polygamous marriage, but also to reject it by refusing her consent, as well as to demand a divorce should the husband persist in his desire as well as to demand a divorce should the husband persist in his desire. The letter and spirit of the Qur’anic verses, as well as the Sunnah of the Prophet, is concerned with the welfare of women and children who were left unprotected after their husbands and fathers were killed in battle. At the same time, it is also anxious to prevent injustice in the family. It may be said that the type of polygamy permitted or tolerated in Islam is not a “male right” but a “female privilege”, and as such it should not be desired only by the man, but should be understood and agreed upon by all the women involved as well – the existing wife and the proposed wife.

Accordingly, it is submitted that it is not wrong or offensive to suggest the possibility of a ban on polygamy for Muslims, especially at a time when there is no social emergency as a result of war, when marrying more than one wife may be a temporary for a social problem.


8 Januari 2002

Kami amat kesal dengan kenyataan Menteri Besar Perlis yang menyatakan bahawa soalan-soalan yang diajukan kepada beliau dan Mufti Perlis boleh menyebabkan kami syirik kecil. Adalah amat tidak wajar bagi seseorang yang mengaku dirinya berpelajaran agama untuk melabelkan orang yang seagama dengannya dengan cara begitu.

Agama Islam adalah amat teguh dan tiada apa yang boleh mengoyahkan kedudukannya. Ayat pertama yang turun merupakan perintah untuk belajar (Iqra'). Selaras dengan itu juga adalah menjadi tanggungjawab bagi mereka yang mengaku berpelajaran untuk bersikap terbuka dan turut terlibat di dalam perbincangan bagi mencapai matlamat syariah iaitu keadilan sejagat. Nabi Muhammad saw sendiri sentiasa terbuka untuk perbincangan dan tidak pernah menidakkan hak bersuara apalagi di kalangan wanita.

Persatuan wanita semasa mengajukan soalan dengan MB Perlis dan Mufti Perlis tidak pernah menyentuh kepada Hukum Syarak. Apa yang kami persoalkan adalah perlaksanaan Hukum Syarak oleh kerajaan negeri Perlis.

Surah an-Nisa' 4:3 menyatakan "Jika kamu takut bahawa kamu tidak akan berlaku adil tentang anak-anak yatim, maka kahwinlah olehmu perempuan yang baik bagimu; dua tiga atau empat. Tetapi jika kamu takut bahawa kamu tidak akan berlaku adil kahwinilah seorang sahaja…. yang demikian itu adalah lebih dekat (untuk mencegah) supaya kamu tidak melakukan kezaliman". Ayat 4:129 menyatakan "Kamu tidak akan mampu berlaku adil antara perempuan-perempuan itu, meskipun kamu sangat ingin akan demikian".

Kedua-dua ayat tersebut amat menekankan keadilan bagi suami yang ingin berpoligami. Sebaik-baik  saksi yang boleh memberi kesaksian samada suami adalah seorang yang adil adalah isteri sedia ada. Kami mempersoalkan rasional untuk tidak memanggil isteri sedia ada sebagai saksi sifat keadilan suami.

Kerajaan Perlis menyatakan bahawa mereka akan membuat siasatan ke atas keadilan suami tersebut tetapi saksi yang akan disiasat adalah saksi yang dibawa oleh suami yang ingin berpoligami ! Saksi yang dibawa oleh suami adalah berkemungkinan besar akan berat sebelah terhadap suami. Ia akan menyebabkan Mahkamah Syariah mengambil keputusan berdasarkan bukti-bukti yang berat sebelah dan memberi keputusan yang menyebabkan ketidakadilan.

Persatuan wanita tidak mempersoalkan bidangkuasa Mahkamah Syariah untuk menentukan samada suami tersebut boleh berpoligami. Kami inginkan Mahkamah Syariah untuk berlaku adil dan di dalam perkara permohonan berpoligami oleh suami, adalah adil bagi Mahkamah Syariah untuk memanggil isteri sedia ada sebagai saksi keadilan suami selama ini. Siapa lagi yang lebih arif mengenai sikap suami jika bukan isterinya?

Sikap angkuh kerajaan Perlis menidakkan kesaksian isteri sediada adalah amat tidak wajar. Juga sikap mereka mempertikaikan hak isteri pertama untuk sekurang-kurangnya dimaklumkan mengenai perkahwinan poligami suami. Sisters In Islam 8.01.2003
Yemen Strategies
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Summary of the Strategy The problem Early marriage Importance of the problem: It cuases: Physical, psychological and social damages to women. Deprivation of Education. Early Death. Reasons of the problem The Law The Father’s domination Customs and traditions Poverty Lack of awareness
Amending the Law 
Setting legal limits for the age of marriage 
Punishment for those who do not obey the law
Women’s ability to express their own wills 
Points of Strength
We have legal experts
There is no incompatibility with sharī‘a
We have supportive organizations
The attitude of the government
The demands of the international community
The need for improving the government’s image
Points of weakness
Shortage of financial resources
Minimal support from the ulama
The government’s reluctance 
The presence of traditional groups 
Preparation of studies
Raising awareness activities
Broadcasting activities
Supporting activities
Financial activities
During one year  
Reforming the law
*             *             *
The practice of early marriage, which entails forcing minor females to marry at early age, is the worst discriminatory behaviour experienced by Yemeni women. In addition to its physical, psychological and social damages on women, this practice hampers the social development of Yemeni society. 
The negative effects of early marriage might be summarised as follows:
1.                  Physical damages of minor females, which reflects on their general health conditions.
2.                  Depriving large number of girls from education and in consequence from participating in the labour force.
3.                   Early marriage and in effect, high fertility rates cause substantial incidents of early death among women.
4.                  Early marriage causes poor upbringing of children due to their mothers’ immaturity.
*        *            *
Our major objective is to stop this discriminatory practice, which represents a threat to the development of Yemeni society. Our previous studies and research inform us that there are key factors in the persistence of this phenomenon. They are summarised in the following:
Yemeni law permits the marriage of minor females (M/15 Personal Status) by keeping the minimum age of marriage undefined. This is despite the existence of a legal clause that allows women to refuse or accept their marriage after reach puberty.
Dominance of the father
The father is considered the main breadwinner as he monopolises the means of production. He dominates the family and thus he can violate the rights of daughters to choose. This permits him to compel minor females to marry early.
Customs and traditional culture 
Traditional customs permit the father to exercise authority. Any refusal of his decision is viewed by society as violation of the socially accepted values. Customs and traditions view women as potential threat (‘ār) and therefore they have to be married as early as possible.
Many families decide to marry their daughters early because they cannot bear their financial burden. Early marriage is also perceived as an ensuring mechanism of the daughters’ future. This is in the context of viewing marriage as the only secure future of daughters. 
Lack of awareness
Literal and legal illiteracy are crucial factors especially regarding the women’s right to choose. This should be seen in the context of traditional Islamic culture, which has not been developed to meet the needs of the present times. 
*             *             *
In an attempt to resolve this problem, we put forward solutions to eliminate its causes. We focus (in the coming period) on the LAW through a number of strategies for reform. 
Legal Reform allows us to achieve the following
1.                  Fix the minimum legal age of marriage by 18 years.
2.                  Endorse punishments in the legal text for those who do not comply with the legal age              
             of marriage.
3.                  Ensure the right of girls to express their will regarding their marriage.
*             *             *
We chose to focus on the legal amendments due to the following reasons:
First: Points of strength 
1.                  We have the legal expertise in our organisations to prepare well-versed legal suggestions.
2.                  The extremely damaging physical, psychological and social consequences of early marriage deem to convince others to accept our suggestions.
3.                  No incompatibility to be found between our reforming suggestions on the one hand and the Islamic sharī‘a and Yemeni culture on the other.
4.                  The project requires communication and coordination with the bodies that share with us the same concern. These are: International and Local Organisations, Political Parties, Parliament members and Legal Experts. 
5.                  The endorsement of the Yemeni government of a number of international treaties including CEDAW.
Second: Opportunities
1.                  International Organisations insist that the government should legislate laws that minimise discrimination against women.
2.                  The desire of the government to appear (internationally) as being against discrimination.
Third: Weaknesses
1.                  Our programmes will be hampered by our poor financial resources.
2.                  Currently, we lack support from the religious leaders. 
Fourth: Threats 
1.                  The government may hesitate from undertaking steps towards legal reform fearing that this may provoke fundamental social norms.
2.                  The traditional groups in society, especially in the parliament may succeed in felling our project. 
First:  Studies and researches
1.                  A scientific study will be prepared by a number of specialists to demonstrate the physical, psychological and social damages of early marriage. 
2.                  Another study will be prepared by a number of ulama to clarify the position of Islamic sharī‘a in this regard. It will use the findings of the scientific research to backup its arguments. 
3.                  The legal experts in our organisations will prepare a draft of the recommended legal amendments backed by the required justifications.
Second: Awareness raising activities
1.                  To organize a seminar for the key social groups (teachers, university students, media experts, mothers and fathers, etc) to discuss the negative consequences of early marriage.
2.                  To invite 150 religious preachers to attend several seminars to discuss the position of Islam regarding early marriage. An emphasis will be put on the role of preachers in restricting this practice.
Third: Media-related activities
1.                         To prepare a documentary film that highlights the damages of early marriages on women.
2.                         To write articles in the local newspaper to raise awareness regarding early marriage.
3.                         To publish four periodicals and two books.  
4.                         To raise awareness with regard to the problem in schools and universities by utilising the prepared documentary and the published studies.
Fourth: Supportive activities
1.                  To present our demands to the government for reforming the law.
2.                  To organise a meeting with the official authorities i.e. the ministry of Human Rights, The Committee of Women, the Ministry of Justice, The Ministry of legal Affairs to clarify the reason behind our demand and its conformity with the general policy of the government.
3.                  To convey our demands to the parliament in the name of legal organisations in Yemen.
4.                  To organise a protest in front of the parliament building. For this, we will invite the International Organisations to attend the event. This will involve the participation of legal figures, religious leaders and parliament members in addition to women who experienced this harmful practice.
5.                   To requesting the international Organisations to invite the Yemeni government to observe the relevant international treaties.
The budget
We will secure the financial resources through:
1.                  Membership fees and donations.
2.                  Donations from supporters.
3.                  Financial assistance from the supportive International Organisations.
At the end of our activities, an evaluation will be undertaken in order to achieve our long-term objective: 
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