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 OmarOther 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.