Slanderous Accusations at the UMNO General Assembly

We refer to the various statements that have been made at the UMNO general assembly regarding Sisters in Islam. We regret that the various speakers have resorted to baseless and slanderous accusations, based on misinformation and distortion of facts.

These kinds of accusations are not new and it is perplexing how any effort to speak about justice in Islam is seen as “challenging Islam”. We are disappointed by the statements made by these ‘leaders’ who only seek to bolster public support by silencing the voices of women and religious minorities. At a time when the Prime Minister is encouraging all Malaysians to be more introspective and proactive in upholding the values of tolerance and moderation, we find the statements from the grassroots of his own party severely lacking in either toleration or moderation. It is alarming that these statements have taken on extremely chauvinistic and violent language.

SIS receives calls from women from all walks of life, who have to confront a whole slew of problems, on a daily basis. In the face of these daily realities, we have successfully advocated for legal reform to advance the rights of women. Amongst others, we have advocated for the right of Muslim women to be able to sign forms for the school registration and transfer of children, application of passports as well as to be able to give consent for their children’s surgery. Prior to that, Muslim women were denied those rights.

Together with other women’s groups, SIS has also successfully lobbied for laws that protect women’s rights, including for the Domestic Violence Act to be applicable to all Malaysians, including Muslims.

SIS has also lobbied for the Article 8(2) of the Federal Constitution to include ‘gender’ as one of the grounds for the prohibition of discrimination. In various memos to the government, SIS has also suggested ways in which the Syariah Courts can improve their services to ensure that women receive the justice they deserve. In fact, when we objected to some of the discriminatory provisions in the latest amendments of the Islamic Family Law Bill in Dec 2005, all women senators, including those from PAS supported our campaign. So, how can it be that SIS “challenges and tries to undermine the Shariah law”?

It is regrettable that the passions being incited at this particular general assembly are being used to unfairly discredit the work that many groups have done in upholding the universal values of peace, tolerance and justice. We invite those concerned with the realities of Malaysian society, to channel their passion into supporting civil society groups in our work to surmount the challenges facing all Malaysians.

Sisters in Islam
17 November 2006