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KUALA LUMPUR, May 20 — The “Suami Aku Ustaz” (My Husband is a Religious Teacher) movie does not promote child marriages and is aimed at encouraging “halal” or permissible relations in Islam, said producer Karyaseni Production Sdn Bhd in the face of criticism.
Datuk Wan Mohd Muzri Ramli, the production firm’s director and chairman, said the movie portrays a teenage protagonist and not a child as claimed, insisting that the latter was those below the age of puberty.
He further claimed that the “underage” label was a legal and societal construct, adding that the marriage portrayed in the movie would not be a problem from a religious standpoint as Islam views such unions as intended for love instead of evil.
“Underage is only the definition according to customs and enactments. We accept (the definition) for harmony’s sake, but it is not a licence to block marriages at an early age.
“There is still an avenue through the court process, where the judge will decide it all,” he wrote in a response to Malay Mail Online last night.
The “Suami Aku Ustaz” movie revolves around a 17-year-old student who is married off to her cousin — who is also a religious teacher in her school — by her parents.
In Malaysia, the legal minimum age for marriage under civil law for both genders is 18, with marriages involving those under this age requiring consent from the state mentri besar or chief minister.
Islamic laws here places the legal marrying age for Muslim boys and girls at 18 and 16, with girls aged below 16 allowed to be married off with the consent of the Shariah court.
Yesterday, sex educator June Low posted a scathing review of the movie on her Facebook account, criticising it for painting child marriages in a good light even as statutory rape remains prevalent, among other things.
When asked to respond to claims by Internet users that the movie’s message contributes to statutory rape or rape involving minors, Wan Mohd Muzri said that such allegations were too “subjective” to be able to determine if movies played a role in encouraging such acts.
“In the ‘Suami Aku Ustaz’ film, for example, this movie encourages legal marriage and avoids free mingling, at the same time avoiding illicit sex and rape cases,” he said, adding that the movie provides advice in line with Islamic teachings to choose a partner well versed in religion, which would “ensure happiness in this world and in the afterlife”.
He also contrasted the movie’s “Islamic messages” to real-world scenarios of teenagers giving in to lust, explaining that sexual intercourse is a God-given nature to humans that becomes “halal” or permissible through marriages and can be noble if done according to Islamic guidelines.
“On the other hand, if you are dictated by lust, one will be wrapped with sin. For example, we see around us, how many underage youths are involved in actions that are at least close to zina (illicit sex), worse still involving free sex and baby dumping,” he said.
“But we see in this ‘Suami Aku Ustaz’ movie, how the parents of this girl, makes the wise decision to marry their daughter with an ustaz (religious teacher) that is able to guide and take care of her,” he continued.
According to Wan Mohd Muzri, the female protagonist’s free mingling with her school friends had caused her parents to worry about her safety, claiming that the latter’s action in marrying her off to a religious teacher was a good move and could serve as an example to educate viewers to be guarded in their interactions with others.
In response to claims that the movie advocates the oppression of women under the guise of religion, Wan Mohd Muzri said its lessons should instead be viewed as a model on how to teach wives and children to behave in accordance with Islam.
“In the ‘Suami Aku Ustaz’ movie, how an ustaz educates the wife gently and politely, rebuking gently, not forcing the wife to do something that she doesn’t like, teaching religious knowledge, teaching the al-Quran. Can be made an example to husbands in households,” he said, insisting such actions are “not oppression”.
Wan Mohd Muzri said the movie’s main message was that gentle, religious education within a household would ensure happiness, listing values that the film purportedly imparts in relation to marital relations such as “love, obedience, patience, loyalty and honesty”.
“Happiness is irrespective of one’s age or title,” he concluded when speaking of the movie’s message.
Featuring Nora Danish and Adi Putra as the lead actress and actor respectively, the local movie premiered nationwide on May 14 and is among the Top 10 movies in Malaysia in a list compiled by the Golden Screen Cinemas.
It was adapted from a best-selling novel Malay-language novel of the same title penned by Hannah Dhaniyah.