Where’re the feminists now, says activist over Siti Hasmah

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PETALING JAYA: An activist who has previously spoken out against workplace discrimination on hijab-wearing Muslim women has questioned the silence of the feminists in the light of a revelation by Dr Siti Hasmah Ali yesterday that her husband does not allow her to wear the Muslim headscarf.

Dr Rafidah Hanim Mokhtar, who leads the International Women’s Alliance for Family and Quality Education, asked if Siti Hasmah had the right to decide her choice of dress, which she said had always been the feminist line of argument.

“There was complete silence of arguments from the feminism angle that we normally found when women’s clothing is discussed, that as a woman, she should be empowered to decide how she wants to dress,” she said in comments on her Facebook, referring to reactions from readers of a news portal.

“And the obedience matter of a wife to her husband in Islam, which has always been an issue to pro-feminists, now seems to be acceptable for Tun Hasmah.”

Yesterday, Siti Hasmah, the wife of former prime minister Dr Mahathir Mohamad, said she does not wear the tudung to fulfill her husband’s wish.

She said on her return from Mecca, she had wanted to wear the tudung.

“So I wore the tudung. He just looked away dissatisfied,” she told reporters on the sidelines of a symposium on women.

“If we want to wear the tudung, we have to ask permission from our husbands,” she added.

Quoting a hadith, she said there is no obedience in committing sins.

But Rafidah, who is a medical lecturer at Universiti Sains Malaysia, quickly added that she was not critical of Siti Hasmah, saying she had been inspired “through her role as a doctor herself improving healthcare in the state of Kedah years ago”

“This post is about double standard of some people. Please refrain from personal insults,” said Rafidah.