Forum: Patriarchy, not religion fuelling oppression of Muslim women in Malaysia

Fadiah Nadwa Fikri speaks at a forum titled ‘Maqasid Shariah and Women’s Rights’ in Kuala Lumpur, April 10, 2016. — Pictures by Yusof Mat Isa
Fadiah Nadwa Fikri speaks at a forum titled ‘Maqasid Shariah and Women’s Rights’ in Kuala Lumpur, April 10, 2016. — Pictures by Yusof Mat Isa

KUALA LUMPUR, April 11 — The root cause behind the oppression of Muslim women in Malaysia lies with patriarchy and how Islam has been used as a tool to control and oppress certain groups in society, panellists at a forum said last night.

In a forum titled “Maqasid Shariah and Women’s Rights”, Bersih 2.0 national representative Fadiah Nadwa Fikri said that Islam in Malaysia has been used in the past as a tool by men to maintain power over women.

Citing Islamist party PAS’s recent reminder to women of their supposed true “functions” as homemakers, the activists said that this was a classic example of how religion is used and interpreted to justify a system which oppresses women.

“This view reinforces patriarchy, it is a system that enables oppression to women.

“Then we have religious teachings that are taught by men and interpreted in their ways,” she told attendees at the Kuala Lumpur Selangor Chinese Assembly Hall here.  

“So, this societal belief has perpetuated the problem. It has been embedded inside us and it has manifested in many forms such as religious institutions,” she added.

Last month, the PAS Ulama council called for women to be allowed to fulfil their true function as homemakers, claiming that Malaysian family institutions were getting weaker due to rising number of divorces.

Muslim non-governmental organisation Pertubuhan Ikram Malaysia (Ikram)’s women’s wing chief Datin Paduka Che Asmah Ibrahim.
Muslim non-governmental organisation Pertubuhan Ikram Malaysia (Ikram)’s women’s wing chief Datin Paduka Che Asmah Ibrahim.

Meanwhile, Muslim non-governmental organisation Pertubuhan Ikram Malaysia (Ikram)’s women’s wing chief Datin Paduka Che Asmah Ibrahim said that Islam never set aside different rights for men and women.

“Al-Quran never differentiates between men and women, this applies for rights as well.

“Women can make their own decisions on properties and their spouses among other choices,” she said.

Jac SM Kee speaks at a forum titled ‘Maqasid Shariah and Women’s Rights’ in Kuala Lumpur, April 10, 2016.
Jac SM Kee speaks at a forum titled ‘Maqasid Shariah and Women’s Rights’ in Kuala Lumpur, April 10, 2016.

Centre of Independent Journalism (CIJ) director Jac SM Kee added that other religions and ideologies such as capitalism and culture can also become a form of “machinery” to perpetuate patriarchy.

The forum was organised by local think-tank Penang Institute and G25. 

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