Officers’ Action Cannot be Seen as ‘Islamic’

Sisters in Islam regrets the action taken by JAWI officers following the raid on an entertainment outlet in Kuala Lumpur recently.

Refusing one of the detainees access to the bathroom (resulting in her having to answer the call of nature in her clothes) and ordering the women detainees to parade themselves in front of the officers in order to ‘determine’ their ‘offence’ is conduct unbecoming of any officer, let alone those from the religious authority. It smacks of disrespect of another human being and cannot — by any lens — be seen as “Islamic”.

When this kind of treatment is done by those who represent the self-appointed moral guardian of Muslims in this country, it goes to show that these officers are hiding behind the cloak of sanctity of religion in denying others the right to dignity and respect.

If the idea was to protect women’s dignity, the Qur’an (in Surah an-Nur 24:30-31) first orders men, if they be believers, to lower their gaze and guard their own modesty.

In their misplaced zeal to guard the morality of others, these officers have failed that acid test. More importantly, they have violated fundamental Islamic principles of dignity and justice.

The Qur’an and Sunnah call for decent and respectful treatment for all, even when it aims at a certain moral standard which included dress (among other things).

If women were encouraged to understand fully the various Qur’anic verses and hadith concerning dress and related issues of modesty such as zinat (adornment) and tabarraj (wanton display of beauty and adornments), they would be able to make choices based
upon their own understanding of faith, and certainly not on institutional coercion.

Muslim women should choose their dress from inner conviction. No coerced choice can ever really be moral; such coercion, in fact, runs counter to Islam’s emancipatory emphasis upon reason/freedom as the basis of human morality.

We at Sisters in Islam are concerned about the impact of such actions against our rights and fundamental liberties in multicultural, multireligious Malaysia. This action is yet another example of how the religious authorities are increasingly shaping and redefining our lives today and therefore, defining the kind of Malaysia we live in.

Sisters in Islam
23 January 2005

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