Tudung, Headscarf is a Personal Choice 10 November 2005
Sisters In Islam lauds the cabinet consensus that the wearing of the tudung should not be made compulsory for students in universities and higher learning institutions in the country. (NST, 10 November 2005, front page). The wearing of the tudung must not be imposed on any student, or on any woman in any setting for that matter, as matters concerning religion are highly personal and the individual choice should be respected. Muslim women should choose their dress from inner conviction. No coerced choice can ever really be moral; such coercion, in fact, runs counter to Islam's emancipatory emphasis upon reason/freedom as the basis of human morality. We also note that this non-coercive stance applies to the International Islamic University, and is applicable to both Muslim and non-Muslim students. Scarves and tudungs have cultural and religious connotations, and therefore it is insufficient to suggest that the wearing of a headscarf is merely an administrative matter. Coercion in this case will be construed as crossing the cultural and religious lines. Islam urges its adherents to respect people of other faiths and practices, and to not use coercion in matters of religion, including “no coercion in dress codes”, as voiced by a minister quoted in the NST article. SIS believes that this sensitive principle in Islam is an important point to bear in mind in our multi-ethnic and multi-religious society, and that the cabinet consensus in fact reinforces the stance of tolerance and respect in universities. Sisters in Islam
Proposed Amendments to Islamic Family Law Act, Federal Territories 14 September 2005
Sisters in Islam welcomes the proposed amendments to the Islamic Family Law Act be tabled in Parliament that will enable the first wife to claim her share of the matrimonial property upon her husband’s polygamy. Another amendment requiring the man, his existing wife, his wife to be and her guardian to appear before the court further protects women because it allows the judge to determine the ability of the man to be just. These amendments were proposed by Sisters in Islam in a memorandum to the Government in 1996. However, these two positive amendments contain loopholes and weaknesses. If they are the same as the provisions under the Selangor Islamic Family Law, 2003, these amendments will unfortunately discriminate against women as well, as they are open to abuse. Our concerns are as follows:
The gender neutral language used in the amendment masks existing inequalities between men and women. While it enables a wife to claim her share of the matrimonial property, it also enables a husband to claim from his wife or existing wives. This is open to abuse by irresponsible husbands. In practice, the amendment could enable a husband to force the sale of the matrimonial home or to claim that property given as gifts to the wife to be matrimonial property in order to support his subsequent dependents. This will cause injustice to the first wife and children. This amendment adopted in Johor has led to our first case of a husband obtaining a court order to freeze the bank accounts of his wife in order to claim matrimonial property.
Poor implementation of the strict conditions for polygamy by the syariah courts. Legal rights granted to women are often not followed by mechanisms to enable her to access those rights. Even though the application for polygamy requires documentary evidence to prove that the conditions are met, often the husband’s mere verbal declaration in court is accepted. Moreover, the court proceeds to hear the application even without the existing wife’s presence.
In addition to the weaknesses above, additional amendments (if they are the same as the provisions under the Selangor Islamic Family Law, 2003) also discriminate against women:
The existing condition of “just and necessary” under section 23 of the IFL Act, 1984, is amended to “just or necessary”. This means the husband needs only to prove the polygamous marriage is necessary, but not prove that it is also just. This relaxes the strict conditions that husbands have to fulfill to justify polygamy.
Fasakh (judicial order for dissolution of marriage) which grants women grounds for divorce is now extended to the husband as well. This is discriminatory when the husband still retains his unilateral right to divorce.
A husband can now obtain a court injunction to prevent the disposition of property by a wife or former wife, in order to protect the husband or former husband’s financial claims. This is blatantly unjust when traditional Islamic law provides that the husband has no right on his wife’s property while the wife has a right to his property for her and the children’s maintenance.
Sisters in Islam proposes that:
Gender specific language be used to enable ONLY the wife or existing wives to claim for her/their share of the matrimonial property before the husband is permitted to marry another wife.
The application form for polygamy should be amended to read “APPLICATION FOR COURT PERMISSION TO PRACTISE POLYGAMY” rather than read like an application to marry which assumes that permission is only a formality. Space must be provided to ensure that documentary evidence to prove the intended marriage fulfils the conditions of just and necessary, financial ability to support all existing and future dependents, and list of dependents is fulfilled.
All illegal polygamous marriages should not be registered and deemed to be void. However, any children born out of this union, shall be considered as children of “syubhah intercourse”. The biological parents will be responsible for the care and maintenance of such children.
In order to ensure justice to women, these amendments cannot be passed without wider consultations and debate on their formulation and implementation. The Islamic Family Law of Malaysia must ensure justice to men, women and children.
Poligami - Adil dan Saksama untuk Siapa? 10 Ogos 2005 Isu poligami yang menjadi tumpuan pihak media sejak kebelakangan ini jelas menunjukkan kemudaratan yang timbul akibat amalan poligami di Malaysia. Pertama sekali, tipu helah dan kecurangan yang berlaku dalam kehidupan berpoligami. Tan Sri Zaki Azmi, bersama isteri keduanya Nor Hayati, telah membakar surat nikah mereka dengan sengaja, semata-mata untuk merahsiakan perkahwinan tersebut daripada isteri pertamanya (NST, 5 Ogos 2005). Kini, apabila beliau menghadapi masalah dengan isteri keduanya, Tan Sri Zaki memohon pula agar pernikahan tersebut diisytiharkan tidak sah sebagai 'jalan penyelesaian' keluar baginya. Apabila seorang peguam yang terkemuka mempergunakan sistem perundangan bagi melakukan penipuan terhadap isteri pertama, dan kemudiannya untuk melepaskan tanggungjawab terhadap perkahwinan kedua, ini bukan sahaja menunjukkan sikap beliau yang tidak menghormati kedua-dua wanita tersebut, malah juga memperlekehkan institusi keluarga sebagaimana yang termaktub di dalam agama dan undang-undang. Adakah ini sikap yang patut ditonjolkan oleh seorang pemimpin - sikap yang tidak menghormati wanita, ketulusan nilai kekeluargaan dan institusi perkahwinan? Syarat-syarat berpoligami malangnya akan menjadi bahan ketawa jika ianya dapat diperalatkan dengan mudah. Malah jika si suami mempergunakan syarat-syarat tersebut untuk mengabaikan kewajipan dan tanggungjawabnya, maka tujuan asal perundangan tersebut, yakni untuk melindungi hak dan kebajikan semua pihak, langsung tidak bermakna. Kedua, poligami juga jelas menggugat kestabilan sesebuah keluarga. Rumahtangga Lans Korporal Tuan Azman Tuan Ludin dan Siti Khalifah Sulong menjadi porak peranda ekoran dari hasrat si suami mahu berpoligami dengan seorang wanita yang 30 tahun lebih muda daripada isteri pertama. Isu Tuan Azman disimbah asid formik oleh isterinya menerima kecaman yang begitu hebat di dada-dada akhbar. Tindakan ini sememangnya suatu yang tidak boleh diterima dan kami menolak sebarang bentuk kekerasan, samada ianya dilakukan terhadap perempuan ataupun lelaki. Namun keperitan hidup yang dihadapi isterinya, Siti Khalifah Sulong, yang terdorong untuk mengambil tindakan ini, juga perlu diberi tumpuan dan keprihatinan yang sewajarnya dari pihak berkuasa. Bayangkanlah, seorang wanita yang usianya menjangkau lebih 50 tahun, mempunyai 10 orang anak di bawah jagaannya dan terpaksa pula berhadapan dengan masa depan yang akan berubah secara mendadak dan ketara. Siti Khalifah mungkin tidak berdaya menyara hidupnya sendiri serta makan minum dan pendidikan 10 orang anak di bawah jagaannya. Mungkin tiada siapa pun yang akan menjenguk bertanya khabar. Jadi, dalam keadaan ini adakah beliau mempunyai pilihan samada membenarkan suaminya itu berpoligami atau tidak? Ramai wanita akur kepada tuntutan suami kerana tahu menghalang itu akan mendatangkan masalah-masalah lain pula. Jika seseorang isteri itu tidak bersetuju, pegangan agamanya pula akan dipertikaikan kerana ramai yang berpegang kuat kepada kepercayaan bahawa poligami itu adalah hak mutlak lelaki Islam yang tidak boleh dipersoalkan, walaupun jelas terdapat syarat-syarat di bawah Undang-Undang Keluarga Islam. Dia juga tahu jika memilih untuk menuntut cerai dan si suami pula enggan, hidupnya mungkin dihurungi kesengsaraan akibat prosedur mahkamah yang mengambil masa yang lama. Proses undang-undang untuk menuntut hadhanah dan harta sepencarian juga tidak kurang permasalahannya. Ini membawa ke hujah penting yang ketiga; iaitu, tanggungjawab memelihara kesucian dan ketulusan sesebuah perkahwinan dianggap sesuatu yang terpaksa dipikul oleh si isteri. Dalam sesebuah perkahwinan poligami yang pada lahirnya menunjukkan keharmonian sekalipun, perasaan isteri pertama dipenuhi ketakutan bercampur putus asa. Seperti yang dibuktikan oleh perkahwinan Datuk Mokhtar Abdul Samad (NST, 7 Ogos 2005, ms 10). Beliau sendiri mengakui bahawa pada mulanya, isteri pertama beliau sememangnya tidak bersetuju dan hampa dengan tindakannya. Sehingga hari ini, ketiga-tiga wanita yang terlibat mengakui jika diberi pilihan tentunya mereka tidak mahu hidup berpoligami, tetapi terpaksa memendam perasaan dan pasrah untuk mengelakkan perbalahan di kalangan ahli keluarga. Manakala wanita dianggap harus menerima keadaan ini tanpa soal, si suami yang terpikat dengan wanita lain pula seolah-olah dapat merangkul gelaran 'suami mithali' kerana berkahwin dengan wanita tersebut. Dan seolah-olah jika dia 'meminta' keizinan isteri/isteri-isteri yang sedia ada, lagilah keimanan dan keperibadiannya dipandang tinggi. Apabila wanita terkilan dan patah hati akibat poligami, ini bukanlah kerana mereka mempunyai 'hati yang rapuh'. Sebaliknya, ramai wanita merasakan mereka tidak mempunyai hak yang sama dalam menentukan halatuju rumahtangga dan hidup mereka. Wanita kerap merasakan mereka tidak mempunyai pilihan melainkan terpaksa menelan hakikat pahit kehidupan dengan mengenepikan perasaan dan hasrat diri sendiri. Poligami jelas bukan sahaja membawa kesan terhadap seseorang individu, malah mempunyai kesan yang mendalam terhadap konsep dan kewibawaan institusi kekeluargaan Islam. Kes-kes di atas mencabar kita sebagai masyarakat Muslim menjawab beberapa persoalan: Betapa pentingkah sesebuah institusi keluarga itu? Apakah kejujuran di antara dua insan yang telah mengikat janji sehidup semati itu langsung tidak penting? Bagaimana pula dengan prinsip 'tidak menganiaya dan menyakiti perasaan orang lain'? Bukankah konsep keadilan dan kesaksamaan itu penting di sisi Islam? Tanpa mengambil kira kehidupan dan layanan terhadap perempuan, nescaya persoalan-persoalan di atas tidak mungkin dapat terjawab dengan sempurna. Sisters In Islam
Deception and Dishonesty in the Practice of Polygamy (9 August 2005)
Deception and Dishonesty in the Practice of Polygamy 9 August 2005
The issue of polygamy currently receiving media prominence from two separate cases surfaces the multiple problems present within its practice in Malaysia.
Firstly, the amount of deception and dishonesty that is present in the practice of polygamy. Tan Sri Zaki Azmi with his second wife, Nor Hayati, deliberately burnt their original marriage certificate to keep their union a secret from his first wife (NST, 5 August 2005). Now that he is facing problems with his second wife, he is seeking to get their marriage declared null and void as a way to resolve the matter. In other words, to claim that the second marriage did not really exist and that he had in effect, deceived his second wife about the legality of their union.
When a prominent senior lawyer and public figure chooses to use his access to knowledge and expertise in law to effect deceit in his existing married life, as well as to evade responsibility and problems in his subsequent marriage, this demonstrates a startling lack of respect not only for his chosen life partners, but also to the family as instituted in law and religion. What can Malaysians expect when leaders of our community display such blatant lack of deference to the integrity of family life and the institution of marriage? Why have laws on polygamy in the first place, when they are used not to protect rights and interests of contracting parties, but as a way to avoid duties and responsibilities?
Secondly, the threat of instability to existing family members is inherent within the practice of polygamy. Lans Korporal Tuan Azman Tuan Ludin was allegedly splashed by formic acid by his wife because he intended to take on a second wife.
Imagine being over 50-years-old and having to care for 10 children. The trauma that Siti Khalifah Sulong faced must have been great indeed to take such a drastic and violent action as a response to the potential threat to the stability and security of her family life when Tuan Azman wanted to marry a second wife, who is some 30 years younger than she is. In such a situation, does she have any real choice to say no to his decision? With 10 children, has she had the opportunity and time to seek gainful employment? This is not merely an issue of how best to approach the first wife as Datuk Nik Aziz Nik Mat advised (NST, 4 August 2005, p. 17), but an issue of a sudden and complete change in all aspects of life.
To resist means taking on significant obstacles. If a wife disagrees, her religious convictions may be challenged since many Muslims believe that polygamy is a practice unquestionably allowed for men under Islam, in spite of conditions under the Islamic Family Law. If she chooses divorce and her husband objects, she knows she will be mired in a lengthy court battle and further disruption to her family's quality, standard and security of life. She will have to be embroiled in legal processes to be with her children and to ensure that her contribution to the family's material wealth are fairly protected and compensated.
This leads to the third important point: the practice of polygamy transfers the responsibilities of preserving the sanctity and integrity of marriage and family life to the female partner(s) in this relationship.
Even when a polygamous marriage appears to be harmonious, it is experienced at the expense of the first wife's dismay, as can be seen from Datuk Mokhtar Abdul Samad's marriage (NST, 7 August 2005, p. 10). When he initially took on his second wife, he admitted that his first wife was strongly resistant and pained by the action. Till today, all three wives declared that they would prefer to be in a monogamous marriage, but had to swallow their needs and interests with a silent submission to fate to avoid further harm and conflict to their family.
Meanwhile, a man can claim the title of decency and 'good husband' merely by exercising his 'right' to polygamy to legitimise his love and/or lust for a woman who is not his wife. If he actually informs his existing wife/wives and seeks consent, he can claim for even higher moral authority. It is not that women have fragile hearts as claimed by Nik Aziz when they are deeply affected by their husband's choice to be polygamous, but that women have fragile control over their married and family lives because of their unequal status. Added to the relentless societal pressure faced by all women to be with a man in order to achieve complete personhood, polygamy as it is practised can mean women having to agree to being a subsequent wife or be treated as severely lacking.
Polygamy not only affects the individual lives of members within the polygamous or potentially polygamous family, but also the concept and integrity of the family institution within Islam as understood and practised in the Malaysian context. Here, the questions that have been raised through the above cases and many others before them, are within the practice of Islam in Malaysia: How important is the institution of family? How important is honesty between people who have committed their lives to each other? How important is the principle of not-harming others? And how vital is the concept of justice and equality? Without considering the lives and treatment of women in this equation, these questions cannot be adequately answered.