PETALING JAYA, 11 June 2009: Former Minister in the Prime Minister’s Department Datuk Zaid Ibrahim has hit out at calls for Sisters in Islam (SIS) to drop “Islam” from its name.
Zaid “Most probably those who make such demands are not familiar with SIS’s activities,” Zaid said in a posting on his blog today.
He specifically referred to calls by Parti Keadilan Rakyat (PKR) Kulim-Bandar Baru Member of Parliament Zulkifli Noordin and former Selangor menteri besar from Umno, Datuk Seri Dr Mohd Khir Toyo, for SIS to drop “Islam” from its name.
“Such is the culture of tolerance in Malaysia today that only Khir Toyo and Zulkifli are qualified to determine who can use Islam and who cannot,” he said.
On the same note, Zaid said he was “shocked” that the recently-concluded PAS muktamar had resolved that SIS needed to be investigated and acted upon if its teachings were “against Islam”.
“We might not agree with every aspect of rights that SIS fights for but this does not mean they are deviant or against Islam,” he said.
Zaid said that anyone who disagreed with SIS was free to air their own opinions.
“Furthermore SIS has done a lot of voluntary work helping Muslim women on a variety of issues.
“Their telephone helpline program Telenisa, which gives free advice to women in trouble, is very effective,” he said.
He added that through this service, women were informed of their rights in divorce, child custody and maintenance.
“In fact, in the aspect of educating Muslim women, I am sure there are not many organisations that have contributed more to Muslim women apart from SIS,” he said.
Muslim double standards
Zaid also criticised Malay and Muslim political parties that claimed to be open towards non-Malay Malaysians and non-Muslim Malaysians, but were quick to attack fellow Muslims who had different views.
“I am made to understand many PAS Supporters Club members, who are all non-Muslim, hold to the principles of democracy and freedom, including freedom of religion and expression,” he said.
“So why the double standard in PAS’s attitude towards SIS compared to the PAS Supporters Club?”
Khairy Umno Youth chief Khairy Jamaluddin also said there was “no justification” for wanting to ban SIS, even for those who disagreed with the organisation.
“I find this strong stance by PAS to be extremely contradictory to the agenda of upholding democracy it claims to embrace,” Khairy said in his blog posting on 10 June.
Khairy also declared his full support for the joint statement initiated by Malaysian civil society groups in defence of SIS. Khairy’s wife, Nori who is former premier Tun Abdullah Ahmad Badawi’s daughter, is a SIS member.
Khairy also said that his position on the matter meant that his support for the talks between Umno and PAS was not to find “conservative” or “reactionary” common ground.
“The dialogues, if forthcoming, should lead us to bring the ‘moderate’ best out of each other, and not merely reaffirm ‘conservative’ positions on sociopolitical issues,” he said.
Disclosure: Shanon Shah is an associate member of Sisters in Islam.