Group applauds the 25 Malaysians who have spoken out about Islamic laws in the country saying it was time Malaysians followed suit.
PETALING JAYA: A group of Malaysians have started the ball rolling with a letter calling for an “open debate and discourse on Islamic law” with regards to the unresolved disputes currently raging in the country.
Penned by 25 eminent Malaysians including retired civil servants, judges and ambassadors, including Noor Farida Ariffin, founding member and trustee of Women’s Aid Organisation (WAO), the message was fully supported by the Joint Action Group for Gender Equality (JAG).
In a statement, the group expressed its support for the many issues raised, most importantly, the issue of the Prime Minister taking “personal leadership [to] champion open and coherent debate and discourse on the administration of Islamic laws in this country”.
“We hope the Prime Minister and other government leaders heed this call, and stop appeasing extremist and supremacist voices,” it said.
JAG stood by its members, Sisters in Islam (SIS) who were mentioned in the letter which criticised Minister Jamil Khir Baharom for his “inflammatory statement” against actions he had called a “new wave of assault on Islam”, including action taken by SIS to seek legal redress against a fatwa issued against them.
JAG said they supported SIS’ rights to seek legal redress and their right to freedom of speech and expression, as guaranteed by the Federal Constitution.
The group also supported the rights of the transgender community to seek legal redress against discrimination from religious officials due to their gender identity, and echoed the call for moderation.
JAG further supported the letter’s claim that “religious bodies seem to be asserting authority beyond their jurisdiction”, citing the cases of Indira Gandhi and S Deepa and the unnecessary pain and suffering caused to their families.
“The letter’s message echoes Malaysia’s international obligations,” reminded the group, while pointing out what the Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW Committee) had said when it reviewed Malaysia in 2006.
“It urged the Malaysian government to undertake a process of law reform to remove inconsistencies between civil law and Syariah law, including by ensuring that any conflict of law with regard to women’s rights to equality and non-discrimination is resolved in full compliance with the Constitution.”
JAG also fully agreed with the letter’s condemnation of the use of the Sedition Act as a “constant threat to silence anyone with a contrary opinion”, and urged all Malaysians who value democracy, the rule of law, and human rights to show their support in fighting for equality.