Let Down by Failure to Create Just Law for Muslim Women

The Sun, 23/2/2006

I AM deeply upset and saddened by the about-turn made by Datuk Shahrizat Abdul Jalil on her stand on the Islamic Family Law (IFL) issue. I had mistakenly believed that her ministry would champion women’s issues and in this case, help create a just syariah law to protect Muslim women like me.
I also feel insulted that she, who has promised to look into making the IFL amendments fair and just, is now saying that intelligent Malaysian women were “poisoned” by non-governmental organisations into creating an uproar over the biased Bills.

When the issue was highlighted in the press last December, Shahrizat was quoted as saying: “The uproar over this issue is symptomatic of the real problems affecting Muslim women in the country. Let this be a lesson to all concerned not to trivialise issues involving the rights of women.”
She also went on record to say that her ministry had objected to all the clauses in the Bill, more than those raised by the NGOs in their memorandum to her.

In her vehemence, nowhere does she mention any doubts on the “inaccurate interpretation and implementation of the Islamic Family Law” by her ministry, herself, or by any NGO for that matter.
Why the sudden concern for accuracy in interpretation and implementation of the Islamic Family Law? Real life cases prove that even in its current form, there are flaws and inaccuracy in the inter pretation and implementation of syariah law. Malaysian women have read, heard of, and some even experienced, the injustices that occur in syariah courts with regards to divorce, child custody, alimony and polygamy.
Changes to the written law must be worded carefully and should first be deemed “just”, before any positive changes can be made to interpretation and implementation. I fail to see the logic of passing a flawed Bill and then telling women that the law can be amended later.

As a Muslim woman whose rights are at stake, the minister’s wishy-washy stand on women’s issues leaves much to be desired. I feel absolutely let down and my faith in the ministry is in tatters.

Fiza M Subang Jaya

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