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What’s the matter with SIS?

WHAT do you know? Politicians from across the divide are actually united on an issue. The issue? The threat that Sisters in Islam (SIS) poses as a Muslim women’s rights organisation that may be deviating from the faith.

The latest spotlighting on SIS — just one of many through the 20 years of the non-governmental organisation’s existence — began on 7June 2009 when the PAS muktamar passed without debate a resolution calling for the National Fatwa Council to investigate SIS. The resolution, moved by Shah Alam PAS, said that if SIS was found to be anti-Islam, it should be banned and its members rehabilitated.

Khir Toyo and Zulkifli Noordin (poking his finger into Khir's ear), emanating a dim bulb together
Khir Toyo (left) and Zulkifli Noordin may have produced suggestions of similar wattage regarding SIS’s name

Since then, both Parti Keadilan Rakyat (PKR)’s Zulkifli Noordin and Umno’s Datuk Seri Dr Mohamad Khir Toyo have said that SIS should drop the word “Islam” from its name. Zulkifli even suggested that SIS should be investigated under the Syariah Criminal Offences Enactments and the Penal Code as if the organisation was a criminal suspect.

So, just what is it about SIS that is deemed to be so threatening to Islam, to Muslims and to the nation? How does an organisation, founded by Muslim women to understand and uphold their religion’s teachings on justice and compassion, become such a threat that it needs to be investigated, banned and reformed?

Who speaks for Islam?

If nothing else, this attack on SIS by the members of political parties from across the divide demonstrates that in some instances, there is really very little difference between the parties.

Mahathir's quote 'but to resort to banning is draconian'Consider how similar Zulkifli’s statement is to Khir Toyo’s. Neither believes banning SIS would be a good idea albeit for slightly different reasons. But both want SIS to drop “Islam” from its name. And both also take the organisation to task for “hiding behind” certain personalities who are seen as politically-connected. And with former premier Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad coming to SIS’s defence, I guess, he, and not just his daughter Marina, can be counted as one of these powerful personalities!

Underpinning the dissatisfaction of Shah Alam PAS, PKR’s Zulkifli and Umno’s Khir Toyo is that SIS is somehow perpetuating an Islam that runs counter to the faith, and is possibly even deviant.

But this begs the question. Who speaks for Islam? Should we trust the state or state-sanctioned bodies to speak for Islam?

Should we trust the National Fatwa Council, for example, who have made, among others, yoga and tomboyism haram? Or should we trust the state religious authorities who have no qualms snatching dead bodies from non-Muslim families and allowing unilateral conversion of minors to Islam?

Or perhaps we should trust the syariah courts to uphold Islam. But can we? Just consider the high number of Muslim women who are unable to seek swift justice through the syariah courts when their husbands don’t fufill their responsibilities as husband and father.  

According to Khir Toyo, by allowing Sisters in Islam to use “Islam” in its name, it suggests that the organisation is an authority on Islam. By the same token then, Islam Hadhari, launched by former premier Tun Abdullah Ahmad Badawi, would have made the Barisan Nasional government an authority on Islam as well. But was that the case?

Excuse me while I plug my book Shape of a Pocket, but the chapters under the theme “Islam in Malaysia” demonstrate a host of problems related to the administration and the use or abuse of Islam that occurred under Abdullah’s administration.

And yet, we didn’t see Khir Toyo or any other Umno politician then call on Abdullah to drop the word “Islam” from his administration’s policy.

From prejudice to respect

Crescent moon and star of Islam merged with female symbol
A symbol for Islamic Feminism
(Public domain / Wiki Commons)
I grew up prejudiced against Islam. It wasn’t difficult, really. From having Muslims tell me I had to cover up even though I wasn’t a Muslim to listening to stories of women and children suffering as a result of a Muslim man’s polygamous relationship, it was the easiest thing to distrust and fear Islam in Malaysia.

Isn’t it incredible then that there have since been moments when I thought I would become a Muslim? Through my years as a journalist, it was SIS that consistently provided me with a way to understand and appreciate the true spirit of Islam as a religion that is fair, just and compassionate. And it has been the people behind SIS who have repeatedly demonstrated a genuine commitment towards inclusiveness and diversity that have made me, a non-Muslim, feel a deep respect for Islam.

I will, however, not become a Muslim in Malaysia. Not just my non-Muslim friends warn me against it. Even my Muslim friends do. And I know it’s not from some diabolical intention to see a kafir burn in hell. It’s from knowing that being a Muslim in Malaysia, especially a Muslim woman, leaves one exposed to all kinds of injustices done in the name of Islam. And my Muslim friends, bless their souls, would not wish that on me or my family.

Indeed it was these injustices that first motivated a small group of women to start studying the Quran and their faith so that they could discover an Islam that was just and compassionate. That group took on the name Sisters in Islam. And that group is what is being vilified by some Muslims in Malaysia today as being “deviant”, “criminal” and “dangerous”.

Sisters in Islam logo
SIS logo (Source:
sistersinislam.org.my)

SIS is no stranger to controversy. Indeed, it is never easy going against a powerful state and a status quo of injustice, especially if the injustice is couched in religious terms that make it a sin or a crime to question.

And while the organisation will continue to court critics, and other attempts to ban or silence it, one thing is clear for me — the problem is neither SIS nor the Islam they live and uphold in their work and in their lives. Favicon


Jacqueline Ann Surin
is currently an atheist who believes in justice and compassion. She believes that’s the reason she’s attracted to Islam, and has SIS and her Muslim friends to thank for it.

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46 Responses to “What’s the matter with SIS?”

  1. Arion Yeow says:

    Great work, bold yet balanced.

  2. teh ewe leng says:

    If that is what Islam is all about, discriminating against women, then I will not want to have anything to do with it.

  3. John Bastille says:

    I have attended speeches made by members of SIS. I have visited their website. As a Free Person (a noun to describe one similar to being a non-Muslim since I detest being labeled as a ‘non’ to another group of people), I would be easily persuaded to find Islam a beautiful religion which stands for justice and equality. A merciful and loving God. In fact, I spent two years studying the Quran, Siras, and the Hadiths. Luckily, I was not deceived by SIS to embracing Islam.

    Sadly, I have to concur that the likes of Zulkifli Noordin and Datuk Seri Dr Mohamad Khir Toyo are more accurate in their interpretation of Islam.

    Like what Tulang Besi, as well as PAS in general, has also proclaimed, the SIS had actually preached “Western secularism” on the part where all humans are to be awarded equal rights – regardless of religion, race and creed. SIS struggles to champion the down-trodden and seek justice in abusive and humiliating polygamous marriages divorces amongst Muslim women. They preach that no one should be coerced into a religion. In short, SIS fights for the dignity of being human.

    Well, now, we learn that these are not what Islam is all about. SIS should drop “Islam” from their name as their struggles are not Islamic.

    We are grateful to true Muslims like Zulkifli Noordin and Umno’s Datuk Seri Dr Mohamad Khir Toyo. They have the courage to call a spade a spade. These are the real representatives of Islam. We all should invite them to explain more about the religion to all of us. Then only we can all understand what Islam represents.

    Now we only know that SIS doesn’t represent Islam or their efforts and conduct are not Islamic. How could they? They’re not covered and some are not married.

  4. Ed says:

    Whoever it is that should speak for Islam, it’s certainly not the author, who’s not a Muslim herself.

  5. Ed,

    I believe that when something affects someone or something you care for, religion, race, gender, etc. come in second. In that sense, I think everyone has a say to it.

    That being said, Jac Ann Surin has every right to write her personal opinions in this piece.

  6. I.M. Eusof says:

    From what I can understand from my son, a religious student and an ardent supporter of PAS, SIS has deviated if looked from a myopic religious view without considering the grounds on which religious pronouncements were made. Multiple wives for example were allowed because of a large number of widows at that time, and the wives were to be treated fairly. No such considerations nowadays except lust.

    Ulama who disagree with politicians whether from PAS or Umno are never given any voice so that a balanced understanding of what’s going on can be discussed. Preachers at local mosques seem to disagree with most of the religious pronouncements made in the media whether by politicians or ulama.

    Ms Surin’s views seems to reflect a lot of knowledge of Islam – perhaps with a little bit of digging she might meet a new spiritual experience.

  7. Karcy says:

    I’ll play the devil’s advocate here. I might be wrong in my understanding of Islamic theology, but I think some things need to be said.

    It’s probably easy for me to view the perspectives of Zul Noordin and the like in this case because I’m a Protestant Christian with a high interest in Church history. From my observations, every group of believers start with a simple beginning, and then develop a system of interpretation that guides religious interpretation for future generations of believers. In Christianity, this basis was the rituals of baptism and communion, accompanied by orally passed down stories of the moral lessons of Jesus and readings of Jewish holy scriptures, before being cemented in the Bible. In Islam, this was the teachings and actions of Prophet Muhammad, compiled into the body of literature known as the Hadith / Sunnah while the word of Allah was revealed in the Quran.

    For 1500 years prior to the Reformation, interpretation of Christian scriptures had to be based on Tradition, which meant that every interpretation had to be done within the Church and taking into account previous or past interpretations of older theologians (post-Reformation Protestant approaches to this vary by congregation and denomination). I see a similar pattern in Islam, where we have different mazhab and different schools within each mazhab. Each follower of each school in each mazhab follows a tradition of interpretation, which prioritizes the teachings of an older generation of teachers and interpreters.

    SIS is an NGO, not a seminary, and as such isn’t obliged to follow any of these schools. But it does entertain views and interpretations of the religion that would, I imagine, be contrary to the conclusions arrived at from these schools and traditions. As such, from the perspective of these schools (and since we in M’sia have one official mazhab and the Shiites are considered heretical), the views entertained by SIS can be viewed as heretical (in Christian terms) or deviant (in today’s terms).

    The problem now is that in Malaysia, we are in a quasi-religious situation where the opinions of orthodox theologians can and do shape the policies of government. As such, it is within their power to declare heretics, ex-communicate them, silence them, and extinguish them from existence.

    Christianity has had a long history of this, and at the height of the marriage of Church and State, heretics were condemned to death. It was for this reason that the Reformation was such a violent time (an understatement). Christianity has had a bitter and horrible history of killing or torturing other Christians who have ‘deviated’ from ‘true teachings’.

    It frightens me to see a similar line of thought entertained in Malaysia.

    I believe that we are in a position where we can learn from history and see the mistakes of others. I believe the Islamic world does not have to repeat the mistakes of the Christian one. People are intelligent today. They can read, study, and understand why people believe certain things that they do, and they can choose for themselves what is wrong or right.

    In this sense, I believe that people have a right to choose their own heresies. It is, at the end of the day, their own eternal souls at stake. And it is in the Quran that we find some of the most powerful statements that respect the individual’s right to choose and believe.

  8. Corynn says:

    Maka sesiapa yang mempunyai nama Muhd Islam atau Siti Islam dsb yg berkaitan perkataan Islam, kena tukar nama lah?

    Great work Jacqueline.

  9. Sonia says:

    Agree wholeheartedly and would like to echo what the author says about SIS showing an Islam that was just and compassionate. Though not a Muslim, their work has inspired me to look deeper at the religion, and through that gain respect and, I hope, understanding. Prior to encountering SIS, my experiences with the religion – which included being harassed for comforting mourning (female, non-Muslim) friends – had been wholly negative. I am grateful to SIS for providing me with the opportunity to learn more about both the religion and myself.

  10. Abby says:

    Dear Ed,

    As Islam is also a matter of public policy, all Malaysians have a right to speak up about how we feel on the issue. We all live in this country and have a stake in its future.

  11. CroZz says:

    All these start from a shroud of uncertainty due to shoddy reporting. I always note that news articles have this tendency of saying someone proposed something but always neglect to cite the reason WHY it was proposed. I daresay the PAS leaders gave a reason why they suspect SIS was deviant but maybe that was conveniently left unpublished so people imagine and stir up controversy. But I wasn’t there so I don’t know as a reader. Sometimes it’s the proposer who fails to give reason. That is also possible. It’s good you try to represent SIS side of the story but until I hear the charges I would rather refrain from throwing support to anyone just yet.

    We still don’t know the reason they alleged SIS is deviant and until we do how can we pass judgment on this matter? If the proposer fails to give us a reason then report it with a sentence stating he gave no reason. Then we can at least write off that person as a stirrer of dissension (i.e. a loud empty vessel can causing unnecessary alarm). I hope journalists would make it a point to disclose the WHYs more as that makes the piece more objective.

    Editor’s note: For your information, you can see the entire wording of PAS’s resolution here: http://thenutgraph.com/pass-contradictions-of-convenience. It is up to the reader to see if PAS has satisfactorily answered the “why”. As a news website we have made and continue to make our best efforts to present as clearly and fairly as possible the positions of all the stakeholders involved, whether from PAS, PKR, DAP, SIS or other stakeholders.

    Shanon Shah
    Columns and Comments Editor

  12. god says:

    If God or his prophets come down from heaven tomorrow, some people would probably think they are the devil, because their minds are closed. That is what happened in history. God belongs to everybody. Religion is just a way of life. Don’t mix the two.

  13. sleek04 says:

    Hafidz, she has all the right to preach about Islam, or does she. And why don’t you try preach something bad about other religions. You’ll be labelled Islamic extremist. A few days back a politician hit at PAS for having a dress code for women in a public park by saying it’s their right to wear what they want at any place. If it is your God-given right to wear whatever you like, then try wear a bikini to a church or a temple or even to a job interview. Such extremist comments only apply when you are against Islam. Because it is OK to bash Islam in Malaysia, I guess.

  14. T-Boy says:

    @Eusof: There’s a reason why she never converted, mate.

    She already said it. Muslim women in Malaysia are screwed.

  15. John Bastille says:

    Why do we, the Free People, talk about Islam?

    A good question. Frankly, we could not really be bothered about your religion or any other, in general. Thus, Islam the religion is not really our concern. Why you pray five times a day, circumambulate a white stone in the middle of a desert is also not our concern.

    But, Islam the political ideology – YES. Since there are groups of people who seek to make Malaysia an Islamic state, it becomes a political ideology – you know, feudalism, socialism, communism, capitalism, and islamism.

    As registered voters, the Free People have to deliberate on the political ideology – including islamism. Thus, if you want an Islamic state, you have to be ready for “Islam – the political ideology” to be examined and commented upon. You have to be ready for it to be questioned and possibly rejected. We are not really anti-Islam. We just do not want to be under theocratic rule – where dominance is with the few.

  16. Fatimah says:

    I was brought up with a solid foundation in Islam. However, as time goes by my beliefs dwindled as I read widely and formed my own perspective about “why we are here in the first place”. Rituals like incessant prayer, doa recitals, fasting, to name a few are merely rituals. You don’t have to pray so hard to the Almighty, because He is the Almighty, the Most Beneficient, the Most Loving, and the Most Forgiving. All the Almighty wants is for his creation to do good. Make life simple. Just do good.

  17. Sleek04,

    I never say anything bad about the religion.

    I blame it on the people. That’s why I name names, organisations, religious authorities, and even politicians from PAS (and one from PKR) who I constantly mention I’m against.

    It’s not exactly a well-kept secret.

    For example, Nik Aziz once came out and said that smokers are cows since only cows do mindless things. Going by that, I wonder how many “cows” by his definition are elected MPs from his party?

    As for bikinis, that depends. I think there’s no problem with women wearing a sports bikini top and track bottoms (with matching shoes, of course) to go run in a park.

    As for wearing a bikini to a church/temple/job interview, wow!

    You’re comparing wearing a bikini in a park to wearing a bikini to a place of worship and a corporate agenda?

    I’m sorry, but when did Kota Baru turn into Miami, where women actually do this? (They cover up with robes or a sarong, mind you.)

    I think women in Kota Bharu know very well how to dress according to the occasion, and to think that women would actually wear a bikini to those places is an affront to a woman’s intelligence.

  18. tebing tinggi says:

    Islam has a body that governs them, they have the fatwa council, the Institut Kefahaman Islam (Ikim), they have majlis fatwa negeri that could look into the matter in question.

    If PAS suggest Sisters in Islam should be banned and Zulkfili Noordin as well as Khir Toyo say that SIS should drop the word Islam, let the body that governs it look into it.

    Based on personal acquaintance with members of SIS doesn’t give Jacqueline Ann Surin the right to meddle with the issue that I assume she doesn’t really understand which could result in unnecessary displeasure.

    Sisters in Islam might have done a good job and I do believe they are quite capable to answer for themselves not to be represented by someone outside the circle.

  19. Hamzah says:

    PAS zeolots are doing a great disservice to Islam. Kalau nak ban, where’s the proof that SIS has deviated?

    Jangan berlagak mcm samseng lah!

  20. Yusuf Martin says:

    Thank you for your most erudite article. May SIS win through and continue to spread the message of true Islam.

  21. Nina Aziz says:

    I am lost for words. The only one I can think of is ‘absurd’. This whole palaver over the word Islam in SIS, the investigation and fatwa is simply diabolical.

  22. Arion Yeow says:

    Despite good Muslims like Shanon Shah being around, I see more Muslims like Zulkifli and Khir Toyo. These two are like the Christians of the Dark Ages. I hope they are not the defining examples of Muslims in this country because they make me feel angry, fearful, resentful and unlike Jacqueline, unlikely to grow out of my prejudice. I believe such Muslims are the problem and should be reformed. My discrimination mirrors their own but I call this my country and say there is no room for their kind of intolerance in Malaysia or anywhere else in the world.

    I’m agnostic, not an atheist, and have no problems with open-minded people of any religion.

  23. Dhanen Mahes says:

    Karcy,

    Ditto.

  24. Steven Ong says:

    Sometimes, I wonder if is it the reward in Islam for male believers that lures them to guard and protect their privilege and that drives them to treat others as unequal? When I read this news to ban SIS, the show by Geet Wilders, “Fitna”, came to my mind.

    Geet Wilders did not totally reject [all the] teachings of Islam, but [wants] to remove [Islam's] unfair rules and laws. It is because of the violent acts and speeches of some believers, that prompt Wilders to produce ”Fitna”. So, by the fruits of a tree, we know the tree that produces the fruits. This is a wise saying and all must know [this] before buying a seedling to plant in one’s garden. This is the Truth.

  25. suryani senja says:

    Jacqueline has reasoned and questioned well in this article. Whether SIS is deviant or not, is not the issue. Whether Jacqueline has the right to comment or not because she is not a Muslim, is not the issue. The issue is whether we should condone a political party’s calls for banning and rehabilitating as a way to silence dissent in our society. The message that PAS is giving out is simply that they are not open to a diversity of views and to dialogue.

    Once again, they choose to focus on what they perceive they can control and have the upperhand in their limited scope of political agenda: religion and women. PAS has got to engage on pluralism and multiculturalism if it wants to stay relevant to half of the Malaysian population who are women, and to Malaysian Muslims who do not necessarily subscribe to their brand of Islam.

    Suryani

  26. noh says:

    After reading the articles and comments, I can simply summarise that Jac Ann Surin did not research enough on her subject. As for comments, they came from non-Muslims who already have opined negatively about Islam (though they wrote that they picked up some books). Then they are so-called liberated Muslims who perhaps have never even gone to religous school and commend SIS.

    For me simple. Just take a look at SIS members and its flag bearers. Are they in it to propagate Islam as the main agenda of the organisation? Look at their individual and family lifestyles. Do they represent Muslim’s lifestyles? The answer is plain NO.

    Just because they are Muslims and in high society (but certainly lack Muslim education), it doesn’t mean they represent and can freely dictate their thinking about how Muslim women should lead their lives. Many Muslims are aware that SIS has always been against many religous leaders for a long time. Yes, non-Muslims like them but the bulk of the silent Muslim majority despise them. I never heard even once SIS commend any religous leader in Malaysia. Why? If you don’t understand the religion well enough, don’t comment. SIS’s agenda remains very dubious to this very day.

  27. Arion Yeow says:

    Noh, what gives you or anyone else the right to define what is the right lifestyle for Muslim women?

    And why should religious leaders be thanked? I believe their job is to serve the followers of the religion and nobody will make a fuss if they serve well.

    We don’t need to be rocket scientists to recognise injustice and we certainly don’t need to be religious leaders to point it out.

  28. wong says:

    If they are Muslim women and practising the faith, what’s inaccurate about the name? Doesn’t their faith tell them they are sisters? Or are they being told they have no right to call themselves Muslims and their faith is not Islam?

  29. Farouq Omaro says:

    Let Muslims fight their own war. Non-Muslims should refrain from joining in the debate no matter how great the temptation. When Non-Muslims join in the debate, it will easily turn into an inter-religious issue. When PAS said it wanted to form an Islamic state, it was MCA and MIC and the other non-Muslim based BN parties which frightened Muslim voters. Can’t you see that the non-Muslims are being used, but to whose advantage? Still the non-Muslims have not learned and continue to poke their noses in Muslim affairs. Just sit and watch. Don’t scream until they touch you or your religion.

  30. Daniel Bong says:

    I personally had also grown up thinking Islam and Muslims are names that we can associate with abuse, violence and hatred. But I have come to learn that Islam is like the law: it’s organic, it evolves to contemporary times, to contemporary understanding of morality and justice. The word ‘justice’ can mean different things to different people. Why should one group of people or men in our case dominate or maintain monopoly on what is justice and what is meant by morality?

    It really boggles me as to why on earth they will support inconsiderate effort to criminalise a women’s organisation that has helped so much. Are they going to score political points? Has the thought of public good or empathy ever crossed their minds before they speak up.

  31. siti says:

    Dear Ms Surin,

    I’m surprised that your Muslim friends discouraged you from converting to Islam. It is as if they themselves don’t have faith in it. I hope these friends of yours are not from SIS. I’m sure they’ll be frustrated if Islam is what they preach.

    Anyway, I know this article is just your personal opinion on the matter. Well written. But may I suggest that if you are so interested in this ….perhaps a little bit of research might help you to understand why they are trying to ban SIS.

    You know by listening to both sides, you can get a better view. And try not to be judgmental…it seems you know SIS more than you know PAS or any other [person] who is against it. Just listen to what they have to say.

  32. azry aziz says:

    As for me, I only found noh’s comment to be justified and sensible. Muslims and non-Muslims alike should not make any unsupported (by Quran and Hadith) intepretation or perception about sensitive Islamic matters. That does not mean that Islam is hostile and difficult.

  33. arah says:

    Excellent article.

    Who speaks for Islam — SIS, Umno, PAS?

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=CEUUtHAaTto

    If we want to learn about Islam, read the Quran and Hadith. Islam is not a “religion” in the sense that this term is commonly understood. It is a system encompassing all fields of living. Islam means politics,economics, legislation, science, humanism, health, psychology and sociology.

    It is a system which makes no discrimination on the basis of race, colour, language or other external categories. Its appeal is to all [people]. “It wants to reach the heart of every human being,” writes Sayyd Abul Ala Mawdudi, scholar extraordinaire in his landmark book Towards Understanding Islam.

    Islam is about much more than daily rituals and habits passed down from parent to child over 1,400 years, as unfortunately many Muslims have made it into. Rather, it is a dynamic system of life that touches all of us.

    In a clear and candid style, Mawdudi has penned this masterpiece introductory explanation of Islam.

    Millions of copies of this book have been printed in more than 40 languages. The purpose of this book is to provide both Muslims and non-Muslims with a brief but comprehensive view of Islam. This is why a discussion of minute details has been avoided and why the author has sought to portray the entire picture of Islam in a holistic perspective. The book also tries to explain the rational basis of Islamic beliefs.

    This is one of the author’s landmark books. It is an excellent gift for Muslims and non-Muslims and an essential addition to your personal library.

    Allah knows best.

  34. concubine says:

    Hi Jac,

    What are the similarities between a polygamist and concubines? Perhaps SIS can help…

  35. imam says:

    What SIS really wants is for men to get pregnant and women to have four husbands. Equality.

  36. menj says:

    @ “Kalau nak ban, where’s the proof that SIS has deviated?”

    That is pretty much the attitude of the commenters in The Nut Graph, who are in general pro-SIS, the group founded by Amina Wadud who became a “woman imam” and [adopted] various other misguided practices, and yet you still want to challenge this fact?

    Sigh.

    Read the opinion pieces of SIS founders in the likes of Zainah Anwar [and] Norani Othman, and [member] Norhayati Kaprawi and those with even a rudimentary knowledge of Islam can figure it out. SIS has been around for 20 years, not five months. They have accumulated a lot of “dirt” over the years.

    Unfortunately, we have commenters who probably heard of them only five seconds ago and started defending them without studying Islam or understanding why SIS is considered heterodox and deviants. With all due respect to the author who is defending SIS, unfortunately she went to the wrong source to learn about Islam and its teachings. Hence, her sympathetic view of SIS.

    Menj.

  37. neverendingstory says:

    Open mind….closed mind….I am right, you are wrong. That’s the whole problem with the world, ya….. Muslim lifestyle? What exactly is that? Your lifestyle? According to which sect or which school? Is it black or white? Or different shades of grey? Shiite and Sunnis…who is right? One is Muslim and the other one isn’t? Get my point?

  38. layperson says:

    I agree with Noh. SIS should walk the talk. SIS doen’t exactly promote Islam the way it has been preached since the Prophet, instead they introduce this “revolution” whereby those who don’t subscribe to an Islamic lifestyle can educate people about the religion.

    Don’t get me wrong. I think all Muslims have the right to preach about Islam but only when what they are saying is in line with the Quran and Sunna.

    My main concern is simply regarding the influence SIS has among Muslim women. SIS says that hijab is sunat but the way they said it simply makes hijab look unnecessary (they themselves don’t wear hijab). So, we now have all these so-called Muslim women who do not appreciate the true meaning of being a Muslim. This worries me. SIS promotes liberalism to a secular subject (Islam). These two don’t get along well.

    Islam is a state matter, so the states should have jurisdiction to regulate it’s well-being, and SIS being an NGO makes this overlap with public policy. Thus I agree that non- Muslims can give their opinion within this regard. However, the significant impact will be felt within the Muslim community itself. Their religion and way of life is the only thing at stake.

  39. emkay says:

    Never judge Islam by the actions of the Muslims here in Bolehland because this is a secular nation. The true Muslims here are few in numbers and they wouldn’t waste time commenting on such topics as this.

    Surf the internet for Carly Fiorina, former CEO and chair[person] of HP/Compaq. She once ended a speech by describing the greatness of Islam, just a few days after 9/11.

    May Allah guide everyone here to Islam.

    Thank you.

  40. rose says:

    A rose by any other name will smell just as sweet! What’s in a name, SIS?

    You continue to do your own brand of good for women, and sucks to those who don’t have anything better to do than kacau saja. We live in a sad world girls; topsy-turvy politicians who should be governing and doing their best for its peoples have other motives. Typical, huh.

  41. helpless says:

    What amazes me is, these so-called religious folks who talk so enthusiatically about heaven and hell, as if they have been THERE before!

  42. Bozaki says:

    Understanding Islam is hard, living in Islam is easy.

  43. Daniel C says:

    Big kudos to the [sub-editor] for making such a sassy photomontage. The variety of readings that comes with such naughty pokes will make up for the poor cropping of the finger in Khir’s ears as well as the superficial design critiques I will make below.

    Ok, the faint lightbulb icon was a poor choice, I think. Perhaps a trippy blend of light red and green tones for the background would have worked better to suggest how these two opposing politicians are united in their misogynism.

    I also have doubts about the usage of the logo of Islamic Feminism. Is SIS officially tied to the movement? Has it ever been used in their publications or promotion materials? Another reason not to include it would be due to its Frankensteinesque quality. Is it about empowering Muslim women or a symbol for female Communist Red Crescent workers? Blow up the SIS logo instead? Or better yet, humanise the organisation by showing a group portrait or its members conducting a community activity.

    It’s sad to see a low resolution logo in a corner.

    Um, I take it that the [sub-editor] wants to give a mocking tone to our ex-PM’s reaction to this matter by using a small and silly typeface for his name but the effect should not be necessary since the irony of this statement doesn’t need highlighting for the politically-savvy readers of this site.

    Furthermore, the font and the beveled shape box does not click well with the overall composition. This bug of mine is not noticable when one is reading online and scrolling downwards but print the piece out and the Mahathir becomes rather “noisy”. How I wish there would be a serious Anwar statement instead.

    As to the actual issue of this article, I just want to point out that studies often show that improvements in women’s social conditions is usually the biggest factor to raising the overall development of struggling communities.

    Distracting SIS from its job of helping women can have negative impact on women, as well as everyone else they share a community with.

    Thus my understanding of why this matter can go beyond gender and religious divisions.

  44. “…Should we trust the National Fatwa Council, for example, who have made, among others, yoga and tomboyism haram? Or should we trust the state religious authorities who have no qualms snatching dead bodies from non-Muslim families and allowing unilateral conversion of minors to Islam?…”

    Dear Jacqueline,

    You don’t sound like you understand Islam very much…and I kind of understand why these people think that SIS should be investigated. And for once I agree with [Khir] Toyo… SIS should drop ‘Islam’ from its name.

    SIS is just a garden variety women’s lib organisation and should behave and act as such. There’s no need to drag Islam into it …in all honesty, I don’t see SIS as an “Islamic” organisation as such.

  45. hanana bt abdullah says:

    When Allah makes law for man [and women], it must be accepted by all who submit themselves as Muslims. This is not like taking a course in college where one can pick and choose what part of the law [module] one wants and rejects what is not “fair” to one’s self.

    And the rationale as to why laws are made for [people] is, it’s for their good. Just look t the example of why Allah prohibits alcohol? In Anisah, it is explained that alcohol is prohibited because the beneficial effects are outweighed by its bad effect. Sound familiar? Yes, you will know that judges in England and here, too will reject evidence if its probative value is outweighed by its prejudicial effects.

    Who are these women (Sisters in Islam) to make light the laws of Allah Almighty?

    I would urge the Sisters to submit to the laws of Allah unconditionally and make learning Islam a lifetime quest. Relying on your connections to maintain a stance is akin to practising “might is right policy” and would lead you astray to the point of no return — murtad. It is on good authority — Muhamad Qutub’s Islam: The Misunderstood Religion — that one falls outside Islam if one rejects the laws of Allah.

    Yes, you can by your connections make Jakim declare that you not murtad or even keep a “strategic silence” to make no judgements at all. That does not change the stark reality — recant or be murtad. It is time for you ladies — to be or not to be, that is the question…

    Suggested reading: Yusuf Ali’s “Translation of the Quran”.

  46. On a non aqidah [central issue of faith] Mahathir and his ilk had banned ,and dismantled the Al Arqam group and his successors continue to pursue the ‘illusory’ enemy of the faith.

    My view is best described by the article in tranungkite.net which reads as follows-

    Allah in his divine wisdom has permitted man to marry 4. Why in the hell are our Muslim politicians fornicating with young women when there is a proviso for them to marry 4 in our country’s laws? The reason maybe if we analyse the leadership of the past PMs, we will fin them wanting. The previous PMs probably [my conjecture] listen too much to their wives and let them dictate policies to the underlings.

    Analysing the leadership of PM Tun M. He was probably well versed in his job but as leader of Muslim ministers – his ministers were rumoured [though not reported as heavily due to non-availablity of internet then] through press reports of collateral crimes as having affairs on the side.

    For a fact, one cannot see any minister keeping more than one wife during the last
    few regimes. Why? Do you think the ministers are not “able”? Surely not .The reason probably is because the big boss does not condone such a practice. Or to go deeper – probably the wife of the boss does not encourage such a policy!

    In many ways ‘modern’ [actually misguided] Muslim ministers think it is fashionable to keep one wife and have a few women on the side. Actually this practice denigrates women. My conversation with club personnel tells of lurid and sad stories that take place in these clubs. Young girls in so-called karaoke lounges, in effect everything boleh places, are picked and dumped by politicians at will. Go visit the clubs – you need a few hundred ringgit though – to see what is happening in the clubs. Just today I encountered a couple of young Malay girls together with their ‘transporter’ at a coffee shop. A peek into their conversation revealed what a sad situation it had been for them. In fact one them [barely in her twenties] sighed – what a life -’kita sundal’.

    Do you prefer our rich brothers marry one and keep a few on the side? And the few on the side are subject to change – just like the channels on Astro. This is tragic, especially since poverty is rampant among the population. Remember GDP is only a number- a few percent of the population own 90 percent of the income. Our disparity gap among the haves and have nots is very large. Just look at the salary of the MB and the salary of the cashier at the club – she gets about a 1,200 ringgit with tips …

    When Allah makes laws for man – it must be accepted by all who submit themselves as Muslims. This is not like taking a course at the college where one can pick and choose what part of the law one wants and reject what is not ‘fair’ to one’s self. And the rationale as to why laws are made for mankind is for the good of mankind. Just look at the example: Why Allah prohibits alcohol? In An-Nisa it is explained that alcohol is prohibited because the beneficial effects are outweighed by its bad effects. Sound familiar? Yes, you will know that judges in England and here too will reject evidence if its probative value is outweighed by its prejudicial value.

    Who are these women [Sisters in Islam] to make light of laws of Allah Almighty. Looking at their profiles – one a daughter of a past diplomat and two among others are daughters of past prime ministers. It is a good thing to champion a cause. Tun M in critising the US actions always used ‘might is right’ accusations at the US. In this scenario I would ask the sisters to submit to the laws of Allah unconditionally
    and make learning Islam a lifetime quest. Relying on your connexions to maintain a stance is akin to practising ‘might is right policy’ and would lead you astray and point of no return – murtad. It is on good authority – Muhamad Qutub [Islam - The Misunderstood Religion] that one falls outside Islam if one rejects the laws of Allah. Yes, you can by your connexions make Jakim declare that you not murtad or even keep a ‘strategic silence’ that evades or sidetracks the issue of murtad.

    That does not change the stark reality – recant or be murtad. It is time for you ladies – to be or not to be. That is the question.


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