IRF appoints new chief amid investigation into alleged sexual assault by director

The coalition of 14 women’s rights groups said appropriate steps must be taken to secure the confidentiality of the complainants and their protection against any intimidation. ― Picture by Gift Habeshaw/Unsplash via Reuters
The coalition of 14 women’s rights groups said appropriate steps must be taken to secure the confidentiality of the complainants and their protection against any intimidation. ― Picture by Gift Habeshaw/Unsplash via Reuters

KUALA LUMPUR, Aug 2 — The Islamic Renaissance Front (IRF) has announced the appointment of a new executive director, following a criminal investigation against one of its senior directors for alleged sexual assault.

In an email to its network of collaborators last night sighted by Malay Mail, the think tank’s staff member announced Azrul Asmadi as its new leader, citing “unforeseen circumstances of two major surgeries on its founder and director” instead.

Its website has also been updated with the details of the new appointment.

It had previously listed three directors before being wiped clean following news reports of the alleged sexual assault and harassments involving one of the directors.

The website now only lists Azrul as its executive director, with no mention of other directors.

According to IRF, Azrul is a social researcher and a qualified green building consultant, with in-depth interest in “the difference between the East and West civilisation, values, social and economic impacts”.

The email did not address the allegations, nor the police investigation against the director. Formed in 2009, IRF describes itself as a movement to empower youth and promote Muslim intellectual discourse, and has advanced local discourse involving Islam and the enforcement of Shariah laws in Malaysia through its events, talks and commentaries.

Last month, Malay Mail quoted three former members about the sexual harassment they allegedly faced from one of the think tank’s directors, following a call by women’s rights groups for an independent investigation into these allegations.

One of the accusers had lodged the abovementioned police report.

The director in question has since said he is a victim of a “concerted effort” to tarnish his name, and denied one of the two other allegations as malicious, baseless and fabrications. He did not address the third allegation.

This comes as the police said a 56-year-old activist and NGO leader had been apprehended for questioning in relation to a report lodged against him for alleged sexual harassment that happened in November last year.

The case is being investigated under Section 354 of the Penal Code for assault or use of criminal force to a person with intent to outrage modesty.

The Joint Action Group for Gender Equality had initially urged lRF to initiate an independent investigation into the allegations after four of IRF activists publicly dissociated themselves from the group as long as the director remains.

The coalition of 14 women’s rights groups said appropriate steps must be taken to secure the confidentiality of the complainants and their protection against any intimidation.

Following news reports on the issue, more than 30 local civil society organisations said they are standing in solidarity with all sexual harassment survivors, expressed their concern about the allegations, and affirmed their zero tolerance of sexual harassment at the workplace.

Related Articles