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PAS wants Sisters in Islam investigated (Updated 6.30pm)

Updated 6.30pm on 7 June 2009


Documentation of PAS’s resolution on Sisters in Islam

SHAH ALAM, 7 June 2009: Sisters in Islam (SIS) should be investigated and declared “haram” if it is found to be anti-Islam, the 55th PAS muktamar declared today.

The Islamist political party also said SIS members should undergo religious rehabilitation should the Muslim women’s rights organisation be found to go against Islam.

The resolution to ban SIS was among 11 other motions adopted without debate. Muktamar resolutions committee chairperson, Datuk Mahfuz Omar, announced that these motions had been approved by the committee.


Khalid Samad 
The motion against SIS was tabled by Shah Alam PAS, whose chief is Khalid Samad, seen by some quarters as being one of the more progressive leaders in PAS. The motion said SIS espoused a liberal form of Islam and urged the National Fatwa Council to investigate its leanings.

“If proven that it goes against the principles (syariat) of Islam, it should be banned (mengharamkan) and its members to go for religious rehabilitation,” the motion read.

It also stated that SIS’s liberal views caused confusion and were a threat to Muslims’ faith, “especially to the younger generation and to those who have a secular education.”

Khalid: Engage with SIS

Khalid, however, explained to The Nut Graph that the resolution was initially mooted by the Shah Alam Muslimat wing.

“I decided to accept the resolution without debate at the division level, but had asked them to revise it to tone down the punitive aspects and stress engagement with SIS,” he said after the muktamar officially closed today.

Khalid said that the Muslimat had agreed to reword it, but they ended up submitting the resolution in its original wording to the main body’s muktamar without his knowledge.

“But even in its existing wording, the banning of SIS is only a final resort — what is stressed is engagement with SIS to clarify their positions on Islam,” he said.

He said that the Shah Alam Muslimat were worried about several views expressed by SIS, and would only seek to rehabilitate and ban them if the National Fatwa Council found their positions to be against Islam.

He also clarified that the party’s central working committee would have more flexibility to address motions that were accepted without debate.

“If a resolution was accepted after debate, the committee would have no choice but to implement it to the final letter,” he said, adding that in this case, the party could still use its discretion to act on the SIS resolution.

“We might not need to escalate it to the fatwa council immediately — the party itself could choose to engage with SIS first,” he said.

But at the moment, however, Khalid said the working committee would probably forward the resolution to the fatwa council.


Mahfuz Omar
Other leaders speak out

Three other PAS leaders also told The Nut Graph they disagreed with the punitive aspects of the resolution on SIS.

Mahfuz said, “[The resolution is] just asking the fatwa council to investigate SIS.”

He said the party decided not to debate it because it could not “debate every single resolution tabled” due to “lack of time”.  

“There were other resolutions not debated also,” he said.

Central working committee member Dr Lo’ Lo Mohamad Ghazali said, “I have a more open attitude: SIS is a registered NGO, so if you don’t agree with them, you can just state your views.”

She said that calling for SIS to be banned was not an inclusive step.


Lo’ Lo Ghazali
“Why not just discuss your views with them, engage them?” she said, adding that Dewan Muslimat was ready to engage with SIS on this matter.

Former central working committee member Dr Siti Mariah Mahmud also agreed that it was best to engage with SIS.

“I don’t agree with banning them because I believe everybody needs to be able to speak their minds,” she said.

“We may not agree all the time, and if we feel they are really wrong, it is up to us to engage them and present evidence for our case,” she continued.

Siti Mariah said that while she did not agree with everything SIS did or said, she respected that SIS performed good work in protecting the legal rights of Muslim women.

“People think they are wrong, but I think their thoughts are rarely heard in Malaysia, and people tend to misunderstand them,” she said.


Siti Mariah
She added that in her understanding, SIS’s main message was that Islam is a just religion and accepts diversity within the framework of syariah.

“So if they invite me to their functions, I will go, because I don’t have any problems with them,” she said.

SIS urges retraction

In an immediate response, SIS senior manager Maria Chin Abdullah said in statement that the move by PAS was “retrogressive” and “undemocratic” and urged the party to retract its resolution.

“It contravenes the guarantee of rights to freedom of expression under the federal constitution. Implicit in the PAS resolution is its intolerance and prejudice against SIS,” she said.

“This demonstrates the arrogance and undemocratic practices of PAS and that it has forgotten that the key reason why they were voted in during the 8 March general election. People voted against discrimination, undemocratic practices, non-participation.

“And now PAS’s actions have turned the table against the peoples’ wishes,” she said.

Maria said the resolution showed an intolerance for diverse views and was typical of a totalitarian mindset that brooked no dissent.

She stressed that over the past 20 years, SIS’s work was based on a belief that Islam was a just and egalitarian religion.


Disclosure: Shanon Shah is an associate member of Sisters in Islam.

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14 Responses to “PAS wants Sisters in Islam investigated (Updated 6.30pm)”

  1. Yusuf Martin says:

    Firstly man cannot declare anything Halal or Haram – that is for Allah alone to do.

    Secondly it appears to be PAS, not SIS who are acting unIslamic in their stance and attitude, they (PAS) have created their own brand of fundamentalist Islam out of keeping with the tenets of Islam and Muslims across the globe.

  2. NARAYAN says:

    The English bit is not acceptable to anyone desiring a global competitive advantage. PAS should use its influence not to make the issue politically divisive, like now. Why are you guys afraid of English? You need to more progressive.

  3. 2nd class says:

    This just proves that PAS is never going to change their agenda. One should continue to support BN (even though this means supporting corruption). We don’t want our beloved Malaysia to turn to another Saudi Arabia or Pakistan.

  4. Kamal says:

    Khalid Samad and the rest of PAS need to ask themselves just one question: who made them the authority on Islam?

    And since we are on this topic, why are they interested in streamlining Islam in the strict confines that only they and those seen as scholarly (predominantly men) are the only ones fit to interpret and exercise discipline on Islam (in Malaysia)? This is the same question I would pose to the state Islamic authority – they however (I assume), will argue that theirs is instrumental as part of the state authority and interests.

    I suppose my point is the history of Islam during the time of the Prophet (SAW) was not one driven purely by dogma, but one that was negotiated and accommodating based on the complexities of a multi-cultural society, with multiple interests.

    The Prophet (SAW) was a prophet and statesmen. He played both roles well and from what little I have read, he never forced his beliefs on the coalition he led; some of whom (including close family members) did not share in his faith.

    The point is, if one has to rattle the saber to proclaim Islamic credentials, perhaps the deeper meaning of the teachings founded on the principles of humility – through submission to God has somehow escaped closer meditation.

    Rather then exemplify humility, we now have people whose enthusiasm lie with inflicting punishment rather than defer to a more accommodating and socially oriented justice concerned with representing the Muslim umma.

    What we hear time and time again is the need to homogenise the practice, silence dissenting voices and discipline the flock.

    Was this truly a lesson Islam taught? Have we forgotten the universal values that Islam actually preached, for example, social justice, compassion, consensus building, respect for private space, charity, communal cooperation, respect and recognition of equity for women in the family, etc.

    The beauty of Islam of course, is that it places firmly, the responsibility of action on the individual. We have the faculties to reason and act and therefore are responsible for our actions.

    At the end of the day, are we to be judged based on our affiliations or by our actions? If it is the latter, let us for a moment, recognise how very ‘modern’ this idea is of personal responsibility – and by extension freedom (i.e. the freedom to do both right and wrong). Freedom to act justly in relation to God and with other free members in society. And how do we interact justly with one another?

    We do that first by respecting individuals and the ideas they espouse and the views they advocate however different that is from ours. Because, by doing so we also recognise that they respect ours. It is in this rights-based approach to society that we recognise individual agency. Didn’t Islam both in teaching and practice, recognise individual agency over 1,500 years ago? Why are we today reverting back to an age of ignorance where we use threats and false promises to cajole others to follow us and where we deny what Islam promoted – that of freedom as individuals? Of course, with this freedom comes the heavy weight of responsibility.

    We are all today meandering along. No one can say with certainty they know what lies ahead or where the end is or even what is best for all. We do what we know best. And perhaps, it is negotiating these diverging interests that we need to do to keep people from getting too big for themselves. Democratic practice is humbling in that it allows us to recognise that no one person has all the answers. It is in my opinion a practice that is anti-dogma. NGOs on the fringe that challenge the dominant view of things are important to this practice and process.

    And of course, this my personal opinion based on the little I have read and understood.

  5. chinhuatw says:

    What kind of politicians prefer to silence opponents rather than exposing their flaws in debates?

    For many, the answer has so far been: those from Umno who know only raising a keris when they cannot win an argument. This motion of PAS has proved them wrong.

    If SIS can be banned today, who would be next tomorrow when PAS joins (or leads, as it wishes) the next federal government?

    What is the point of having its non-Muslim supporters upgraded as a wing when it cannot even tolerate dissidents amongst the Muslims?

    If you live in Shah Alam, do you dare to vote Khalid Samad next time around, no matter how many visits he makes to churches in the next three years?

    More serious than the loss of Husam and the talk of unity government, we are seeing a PAS leapfrogging to the right of Umno on the ethno-religious front.

    And if Khalid Samad is to lose the non-Muslim and liberal Muslim votes, how many mixed seats now held by PAS would be in danger? Can even Nizar survive in Bukit Gantang?

    Remember 1990 and 1999? I see why Dr Dzulkefly Ahmad says PAS has this fear of success. But can you force a party to succeed?

  6. myop101 says:

    PAS can pass whatever resolutions they like but they should not force the closure and banning of any NGOs that have not committed crime.

    If they are deviant as PAS claims, then PAS should actively engage them in discussions and go into debates so as they can win the hearts and minds of their target audiences.

    How different will PAS be from its arch-rival, Umno, when it resorts to use the power of the state to silence harmless NGOs like SIS? PAS should be mindful that the rakyat at large can only tolerate their antics to a certain degree.

  7. What PAS has asked for, as I understand it, is for the National Fatwa Council to investigate SIS. From what I’ve understood so far, the Muslimats in PAS find SIS rather liberal and soft in their stance in Islam.

    What was the exact wording used in the typed out booklet, Shanon?

    And to quote you, if SIS is to be investigated as anti-Muslim or anti-Islam, which Islam is PAS talking about?

  8. aidan says:

    “If SIS is to be investigated as anti-Muslim or anti-Islam, which Islam is PAS talking about?” This is the question that really gets me. We are all forced to be “Muslims” or “Islam” based on fundamentalists’ opinions on what this religion is supposed to be. No room is given for debate,diversity, improvement or progress. SIS has done a lot of good work, but this is only seen as a threat to PAS. Long live SIS, many of us support you!

  9. I’m considering the fact that Khalid Abdul Samad was blindsided by the Muslimat wing with the wording as it was presented.

    So I guess a major question from me, as one of his constituents would be what action will he take against the Muslimat wing of Shah Alam who went against his direct order to tone it down?

    Will there be a reprimand and show cause?

    This is, of course, an internal matter for PAS Shah Alam to decide.

  10. weakness says:

    Finally, there is something for the rakyat to ponder upon. To be with PR or with BN. And hell PR cannot rule Malaysia without PAS’s support.

  11. Actually weakness is correct. Unless PKR can somehow win over PAS voters, or more Umno voters, they will have to live with PAS.

  12. The Lord Panda says:

    “If you live in Shah Alam, do you dare to vote Khalid Samad next time around, no matter how many visits he makes to churches in the next three years?”

    He’s out.

    I want to be able to buy beer in my neighborhood Tesco & 7-11.

    Toyo, come back.

  13. mike says:

    The world has moved forward. Islam is still in the past. Religion has little standing in this world of modern scientific thinking. PAS needs to wake up or …

  14. nik says:

    Many of us seems to overlook this statement in their bashing of PAS:

    ” SIS should be investigated and declared “haram” if it is found to be anti-Islam, the 55th PAS muktamar declared today.”

    Of course PAS members in General are againts SIS, but their official resolution is not to immediately and blindly ban SIS, but only to ban if the majlis fatwa found SIS to be ‘anti-Islam’.


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