Muslim activist says Marina silent on right to wear hijab

Rafidah-Hanim-Mokhtar

PETALING JAYA: A Muslim women’s group who has been championing the right of hotel workers to wear hijab has criticised Marina Mahathir, accusing the daughter of former prime minister Dr Mahathir Mohamad of being selective in defending Muslim women’s rights.

Dr Rafidah Hanim Mokhtar, who leads the International Women’s Alliance for Family Institution and Quality Education (Wafiq) said Marina had remained silent in the wake of the controversy over a ban on female hotel workers from wearing the tudung, but was vocal in condemning an incident in which a man had assaulted a group of Muslim women for not covering their hair.

Rafidah said the man seen in the viral video clip “is hardly representative of the majority of Muslims in Malaysia”.

“Many Muslims have condemned the incident. Surely the action of one misguided man does not serve as evidence of a so-called ‘negative effect of Islamisation’,” she said.

Rafidah said the incident paled in comparison to the discriminatory practice by some hotels to ban their Muslim female employees from wearing the hijab.

“It is regrettable that Marina Mahathir has chosen to focus on the recent anomalous incident of a man slapping a woman without hijab, rather than the much bigger current issue of systematic religious discrimination of female employees of international hotel chains who are forbidden from wearing the hijab by their employers,” she added.

A footage making the rounds on social media shows a man scolding a group of Muslim women at a bus stop for not wearing the hijab, before slapping one of them.

Marina reportedly linked the incident with Islamisation, something she has spoken out in the past and which is the focus of her latest book “Illusions of Democracy”.

Rafidah further criticised Marina’s stand on Arabisation among Muslims in Malaysia.

“Incidentally, it is also ironic that while condemning ‘Arabisation’, Marina chose to name her movement founded in 2009 ‘Musawwah’. Why use an Arabic term rather than a Malay word?” she asked.

Musawwah, which means equality, is a movement seeking to empower Muslim women.

“Rather than be critical of insignificant elements of clothing wrongly attributed to ‘Arabisation’, it is high time that Marina show some consistency and speak up for the rights of women who want to wear the hijab and yet are suffering from profound trauma and stress for not being able to do so because of systematic religious discrimination by more powerful entities,” said Rafidah.