Obsession with controlling what women wear needs to stop

LETTER | Sisters in Islam (SIS) demands that Kelantan’s Islamic Affairs and Religious Department (Jaheaik) stops its operations to police and summon women for their clothing, and expunge those whom have been issued notices from attending counselling sessions.

This is in reference to the article “39 women slapped with notices for wearing sexy attire during Ramadan”, which was published in the New Straits Times today.

The obsession to control what women wear needs to stop. Not only does this practice humiliate and degrade the value of women, the compulsive need to control what women wear implies that she is mentally, physically and spiritually defective and a danger to the moral order of society.

We are also extremely concerned that the operations carried out in Kota Bharu unfairly targets Muslim women, as no summons were issued to men who fail to guard their modesty by lowering their gaze as commanded by Islam [24:30]. This discrimination unfairly suggests that women are exclusively to be blamed for social and moral ills within the community.

According to the Holy Quran, discussion on how people should dress revolves around the concept of modesty. Surah Al-Araaf 7:26 speaks of clothing to cover nakedness and clothing as a thing of beauty. The same verse also makes a point that the garment of piety (taqwa) is the best of all. Verse 31 of the same Surah goes on to caution against excessiveness where it comes to dressing well for worship.

When the two above verses are taken together, we can clearly see that while clothing is to be used to cover nakedness, no amount of material used or discarded can take priority over piety (taqwa). According to Surah Al-Hujurat 49:13, the most noble of humankind in the eyes of Allah are those with the best taqwa.

We urge that Jahaeik make efforts to understand the realities of the community which they serve as a whole, as well as the systemic causes of social ills, which does not stem from how women choose to dress.

SISTERS IN ISLAM is a non-governmental organisation working towards advancing the rights of Muslim women in Malaysia within the framework of Islam, universal human rights principles, constitutional guarantees, as well as the lived realities and experiences of women.

The views expressed here are those of the author/contributor and do not necessarily represent the views of Malaysiakini.


Source: https://www.malaysiakini.com/letters/476002?fbclid=IwAR1cnNfyQuY0b6JrlQ5jWgBMMziMiObM1qExJkE9ub4-wmDAeriUtIpqHNk

How intolerance can persist in democratic countries: the case of Indonesia

Is tolerance among different groups a prerequisite for democracy?

Indonesia’s case shows that it’s not. Democracy, a system of government based on elected representation, is thriving in the world’s most populous Muslim country. Democratically elected presidents have governed Southeast Asia’s largest economy since the fall of Soeharto’s authoritarian regime in 1998. The country has just carried out elections in April.

At the same time intolerance of minority groups is widespread.

The capital, Jakarta, and former capital, Yogyakarta, located about 500km southeast from Jakarta, are top of the list on the Indonesia Democracy Index. But they are also listed as the most intolerant cities, according to human rights advocacy group Setara Institute. Its latest report indicates that this is due to poor regulation and governance in response to intolerant practices in both cities.

Referring to these cases in Jakarta and Yogyakarta, we argue that democracy and tolerance are independent of each other.

Democracy can still perform in Indonesia despite intolerance of minority groups. To ensure that consensus as a prerequisite for a democratic society can be reached, the minority has no choice but to keep silent and succumb to the power of the majority.

Democratic but intolerant in Yogyakarta and Jakarta

Last year, Indonesia’s Statistics Agency published a report showing the Indonesian Democracy Index improved in 2017, compared to 2016. The index rates each province in Indonesia based on its civil liberties, political rights and democratic institutions.

Yogyakarta, the seat of the Javanese monarch Hamengkubuwono X, has always secured top spot in the index in the past few years.

However, Yogyakarta’s tolerance index was the sixth-lowest compared to 93 other cities in 2017.

The Centre for Religious and Cross-cultural Studies identified around 66 violent conflicts in Yogyakarta between 2011 and 2016. In the latest case this year, 11 wooden crosses at a Christian cemetery in Yogyakarta were destroyed. A village in Yogyakarta also recently barred a non-Muslim from living in their village.

A similar pattern can be found in Jakarta.

The capital was rated Indonesia’s most democratic city for three years: 2014, 2015 and 2017.

In 2016, Jakarta lost that title due to a combination of acts of communal violence by sections of society and a poor response from the local administration in handling these violent cases. Jakarta ranked 24th out of 34 provinces in 2016.

However, similar to Yogyakarta, Jakarta scored the lowest in the tolerance index in 2017.

Jakarta gained its status as an intolerant city after intolerant practices by Muslim conservatives marred its gubernatorial election in 2017. In the end, the conservative groups ousted Christian-Chinese incumbent Basuki “Ahok” Tjahaja Purnama.

Between democracy and tolerance

There are at least two conditions to have a democratic society. First, it must ensure equality for all actors to participate in decision-making processes.

Second, when conflicts arise, society can manage them within defined and universally accepted boundaries.

For example, imagine that you are attending a public forum or discussion to choose a leader for your community. The organiser announces that each one of you has the same right to participate and you are delighted to hear that. As the debates continue between different sides defending their arguments, you realise that things may become uncontrolled as no one wants to compromise and no one wants to lose.

Hours later, everybody is tired, and someone finally says: “Let’s remember that each one of us should have the same right to participate, therefore, let’s ask each one of us who is the better leader, then the one who has the most support wins.”

There you have the ideal condition that most democracies imagine today: participation and manageable conflict.

Let’s turn to tolerance. We define tolerance as putting up with those we disagree with, dislike, or who are different from us, without coercion. Don’t forget that the act of tolerance means that one side (the one that tolerates) accepts the other side (the one that is tolerated) so it masks unbalanced power relations. Therefore, in the context of plural communities, tolerance from both sides is needed.

From the conceptual exercise, we can argue that tolerance is highly relevant in democracies because disagreements, dislikes and differences are inevitable in plural communities.

Intolerant practices in the democratic sphere

It is also important to note that consensus in a democratic society can be reached through domination by the majority that silences the minority.

Elizabeth Noelle-Neumann, a leading German researcher on public opinion, calls the process a “spiral of silence”.

From the “spiral of silence framework”, we can see how an idea takes hold in society.

We can see how this concept works through analysing how the rejection of Ahok, which was based on racial and religious grounds, could be accepted.

Ahok’s rejection was made possible through a mainstreaming of Islamic values via popular culture and daily lives. This process is called “normalisation”.

As a result of this normalisation, it is difficult to counter the intolerant narratives without being accused of being anti-Islam. Living in a Muslim-majority country, people fear the anti-Islam label.

A similar thing also happens in Yogyakarta. The minority tends to accept mistreatment by the majority as they feel the power of the majority is so big that it doesn’t leave any option for the minority but to succumb. They also feel that their fight against intolerant practices will be useless as those in authority and legal enforcers tend to defend the majority.

Both processes of mainstreaming and normalisation are arguably part of efforts to push ideas belonging to the majority to dominate the public sphere, while at the same time suppressing opposing ideas belonging to minority groups.

Democracy in Indonesia, then, seems to allow the majority to rule over the minority. What is happening in Jakarta and Yogyakarta shows that consensus in a democratic setting can be continuously achieved, but it will not always be a tolerant one.

Source: https://theconversation.com/how-intolerance-can-persist-in-democratic-countries-the-case-of-indonesia-110607?fbclid=IwAR0VMdqkYsxAMlLmGl8-ZO_iWOLOSyHOPEUsvZxQexZ-CJqHhBvbO7nT9T0

End shadows of intolerance post elections

Achmat Hilmi


Jakarta   /   Fri, April 26, 2019   /  09:06 am

The simultaneous elections have ended, but they have left a frenzy and disputes. A group that claims to be the most moderate in the country is no longer able to display the tenderness and progressive spirit of Islam; it is trapped in political barriers and becoming intolerant. Many seem to be fighting for their spirit of primordialism based on political factions, rather than the spirit of nationalism.

During the presidential and legislative campaign period until polling day on April 17, security forces had managed to secure physical space but they never succeeded in reconciling virtual space.

These simultaneous elections have not managed to assert the next president, the votes for whom are still being tallied by the General Elections Commission (KPU). Whoever wins the presidential seat seems to be a vague figure amid truth claims of “quick counts” of pollsters and “internal counts” of the camps of the presidential contenders.

The elections have instead succeeded in blurring the spirit of diversity. The presidential election, in particular, has considerably affected family relations, friendship and national unity. One camp trumps up the threat of communism while the other raises threats of Indonesia turning into a caliphate, each claim intending to sink the electability of the incumbent Joko “Jokowi” Widodo and his challenger Prabowo Subianto.


Social space actually reinforces differences, blurs unity.


Social space actually reinforces differences, blurs unity and increasingly converges to the bipolarization of political space with two extreme camps charging the other of being “infidels”. Political camps thus become increasingly exclusive.

It seems public space today, particularly as echoed in cyberspace, allows less discourse for equality and justice, and instead extends the space for discrimination against those who succumb to the rallying cries of each camp.

Many voices of devotees of tolerance and diversity have become silent, turned off by the dominance of partisanship.

Religious conservativism has merged into political ideological conservativism. Religious fanaticism has reached a universal definition; what it preaches is not a religion that many people understand.

Ideological space is now shifting; from religious ideology; moderate-conservative, transforming into a numerical ideology with symbols and political ideology jargon.

Digital space should contribute to expanding social space that we cannot immediately reach, so we could meet amid differences. But this cannot happen when the other is accused of being an infidel and not having common sense.

Intolerance and exclusivism are being increasingly crystallized to be more extreme than any ideology. There must be a way out.

The epidemic of political extremism must be stopped through the instilling, again, of noble values of tolerance and inclusiveness that depart from our ancestral heritage, progressive understanding of religion and based on the philosophy of the Pancasila.


The writer is program and advocacy manager at Rumah Kita Bersama.

Disclaimer: The opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not reflect the official stance of The Jakarta Post.



Forced to marry a stranger: a child bride shares her story

Sharina* and Nazir met for the first time on their wedding day.

Sharina was just 14 and Nazir was 17. Their decision to marry was not theirs to make. Instead, both of them were forced into marriage by their families.

Every year, 13.5 million children under 18 are married, with many having little to no say in the matter – and of that number, 12 million are girls. Child marriage is a serious human rights violation that often cuts short a girls’ education and increases her risk of experiencing physical and sexual abuse, as well as health problems.

It won’t be easy – but ending child marriage is possible. Plan International has been working tirelessly across many countries and for many years to help end child marriage through powerful partnerships with parents, lawmakers, community leaders and especially youth.

Through our work, we encounter many former child brides – Sharina is one of them. Now she shares her story of being forced into marriage at age 14.

Portrait of Sharina

The story begins with my father. It was my father who suddenly one day took me to an old man who was visiting our village. At the time, I did not know this old man was the grandfather of the man who would soon become my husband. I also didn’t know that this “meeting” was to showcase me as a potential bride.

It was my brother’s wife who told me what was really going on. I was scared. Me – married? I was desperately sad and began to cry. I had no desire to get married.

After I was chosen as the bride for the old man’s grandson, no one talked to me about what was going to happen. At the same time, I dropped out of school.

The reasons I dropped out were partly economic, since my parents did not have much money for education, and because my best friends had also dropped out.  I was very fond of my friends and happy in our village. The thought that I had to marry and move to a place far away without anyone I knew was awfully painful to me. I did nothing but sit inside and cry.

My family travelled to meet the man who would become my husband, but I never met him – not until we were married.

The night before the wedding

The “gaye holud” is an important part of wedding traditions in Bangladesh.

It’s the night before the wedding where guests congregate while the bride is adorned for the wedding. An important part of this tradition is smearing the bride in yellow turmeric which brightens and softens the skin.  Another tradition is for the groom’s family to bring gifts for the bride – they gave me a yellow sari to wear for the ceremony.

For a bride, the holud should be a feast and celebration but I just cried. I sat on a straw mat in front of all the others, in my yellow sari, while I was decorated with yellow flowers in my hair and around my neck. Henna tattoos were also drawn on my hands and up my arm. Thoughts flew through my head – “Was it really happening now? How could it be?”

A wedding should be a happy moment but this was tragic. I knew I was too young.

Hands painted in henna

Here comes the groom

The wedding party started at 10am with the whole village present. While the party was going on outside, I sat alone in my room. The neighbours teased me, crying outside the door, “Here comes the groom!”. Each time it happened, my heart jumped and I felt like I could not breathe.

I looked down at all times during the formal session of the ceremony, it would be over when I said “kobul” – a confirmation that I consent to the marriage. But I refused to say it. This made my family angry and everyone shouted that I had to say it. They said I was being disrespectful. I had no choice. I said the words and not once did I look at the man I was forced to go away with.

The beginning of a new life

Nazir, my husband, had also been forced to marry when his mother could no longer manage to care for him. She had shown him my picture and told him that it was now or never.

As we drove away from my childhood home, we did not say a word. When I finally glanced at him, I thought he was not handsome. I did not like the look of him. The tears came back and finally I fainted.

In the first days, we hardly spoke. The tone between us was formal and brief. He eventually asked me to be less formal but I told him that I wanted to go home. He said we were married now. He was kind and understanding but said I had to realize this was my life now.

Man and woman outside home

Today, the relationship between us is much better. A few months after the wedding, I was seriously ill and bedridden with a fever. Nazir sat with me every night, put wet cloths on my forehead and took care of me. He said he loved me. He was very afraid and said he would rather die than lose me. After that, my feelings towards Nazir began to change.


When I fell pregnant, it was Nazir who took care of me. When Tonni, our daughter, was born, Nazir was so happy. He had wanted a daughter and was so proud. I was surprised the first time I saw her. She was so pretty.

woman and man holding baby

My daughter and her future means everything to Nazir and I. Our greatest wish for her is that she will study and get an education – something we never had. Nazir’s wish is that she will become a doctor.

Together, we’ve agreed that we are never going to make the same mistakes our parents made – we will NEVER marry off our daughter.

Ending child marriage

Around the world, ‘normal’ for too many girls is facing roadblocks that challenge their power, freedom and equality just as they enter womanhood. Child marriage is an extreme example of such a roadblock, and one that often forces girls just like Sharina to drop out of school and become mothers before their young minds and bodies are ready.

Plan International Canada is calling on Canadians like you to stand with girls like Sharina to Defy Normal and help end child marriage. Together, we can support girls in becoming empowered, confident women who decide their own futures.

*Name has been changed to protect identity.

Source: https://stories.plancanada.ca/forced-to-marry-a-stranger-a-child-bride-shares-her-story/?fbclid=IwAR34Y-hd8u3kxwoPxd2RA3FQBbC8FTcT79jz5kHoHHyUROq93p0jnBlaEJ8

Legacy of Southeast Asia’s Muslim women rulers

THE Malay world, while united by a common language, a collective commitment to Islam and a shared history, also preserves a variously expressed but mutually-held set of customary traditions (adat).

Muslim scholars, both past and present, have long debated the Islamic legitimacy of adat. In reality, however, many adat practices complement the ideals of Islam — ideals often overlooked by more “orthodox” Muslim practitioners. This is particularly so regarding the treatment of women.

A perception exists that Islam encourages the seclusion of women. While modern feminist readings of the Quran are celebrated for challenging this, it is worth noting that Malay adat has permitted Muslim women to attain public positions of power and influence for centuries.

In wake of International Women’s Day 2019, this article celebrates five Southeast Asian “Queens of Islam”, beginning with two sisters from the region’s early Peranakan (Sino-Malay) community.

During the late 1300s, the once great city of Palembang, former capital of Srivijaya, became a Chinese-led pirate base. In that guise, it wrought chaos throughout the Straits, disrupting trade and threatening regional peace until Zheng He, exasperated by the threat it posed to his fleets, attacked and conquered the city in 1407. Expelling all the city’s pirates, Zheng He appointed Chinese Muslim Shi Jinqing as its new ruler.

Under Shi Jinqing, Palembang embraced Islam and re-engaged in international trade. After his death in c.1421, control of the city was divided between his two daughters, Shi Daniang and Shi Erjie. For more than 20 years, these two ruled the city justly, ensuring the maintenance of peace and the development of a flourishing economy.

Subsequently, Shi Daniang also travelled to Java, where she became shahbandar (harbour master) of Gresik.

With the title Niai Gedi Pinateh, she preached Islam throughout the island, becoming a pivotal figure in its Islamisation. She even adopted and educated Sunan Giri, the most prominent of the Wali Songo.

Elsewhere in the region, the early 16th century saw Perak fall under the control of tribal chieftain, Tun Saban, and his sister, Tok Temong.

In 1528, Tun Saban invited Muzaffar Shah, a descendant of Melaka’s final ruler, to become Perak’s first sultan. During Muzaffar Shah’s inauguration, Tok Temong presented him with Mestika Embun, a powerful talisman. She refused, however, to cede her territory; confident of her own authority, she reminded Muzaffar Shah that, while he may rule Tun Saban’s lands to the right of Sungai Perak, she ruled to the left.

Although Tok Temong’s territory would ultimately pass to Muzaffar Shah upon her death, the latter refrained from challenging her authority throughout her lifetime, demonstrating the respect she commanded. Even today, Mestika Embun remains a crucial part of Perak’s royal regalia, without which royal authority cannot pass from one generation to the next. Until the reign of Sultan Idris Murshidul Azzam Shah (1887-1916), Perak’s royal graves and settlements were also exclusively located on the right side of Sungai Perak, out of respect for Tok Temong.

Turning to 17th century Aceh, this staunchly Islamic and fabulously wealthy Southeast Asian kingdom was famously ruled by Sultan Iskandar Muda from 1607 to 1636. It is often forgotten, however, that Iskandar Muda was succeeded by his daughter, Sultanah Safiatuddin Syah (1641-75).

While some have suggested that Sultanah Safiatuddin’s appointment was a ruse by Aceh’s powerful nobility to weaken royal authority, her ascension actually reflected the power of local matrilineal adat and the support of Nuruddin al-Raniri, Aceh’s shaykh al-Islam.

In his Bustan al-Salatin, al-Raniri argued that Sultanah Safiatuddin possessed all the qualities necessary for leadership and should therefore be allowed to rule, just as local adat permitted. Even the Dutch supported this assessment, describing her as “good-natured but awe-inspiring”.

Today, however, Sultanah Safiatuddin is poorly received by historians, who blame her for Aceh’s mid-17th century decline.

But, while Aceh did lose most of its empire under Sultanah Safiatuddin, to attribute this to her leadership is unjust.

The 17th century witnessed intense European expansion in Southeast Asia. The Dutch, in particular, actively tried to smash all Malay involvement in regional trade, bringing many great Malay and Javanese commercial centres, including Johor, Banten and Mataram, under their control.

That Aceh maintained its independence in the face of such aggression, while continuing to constitute a major trade centre, is both impressive and a testament to the sultanah’s ability to govern effectively.

Moreover, under Sultanah Safiatuddin, Aceh produced a rich legacy of Malay Islamic scholarship that, arguably, has not been equalled since.

Far from a failure, therefore, she emerged as one of 17th century Southeast Asia’s most successful rulers.

Our final Muslim woman head of state of this region, Cik Siti Wan Kembang, governed Kelantan between 1610 and 1667.

A warrior princess who entered battle on horseback accompanied by an army of female horse riders, Cik Siti Wan Kembang ushered in a mini Golden Age during which Kelantan asserted itself internationally, attracting merchants from all over the world and generating a degree of prosperity not seen again for a century.

Today, the favourite pet of Cik Siti Wan Kembang, the muntjac (barking deer), appears on Kelantan’s state emblem as a reminder of this glorious past.

Although these five ‘Queens’ lived many centuries ago, the longevity of Malay adat has ensured that women continue to contribute to Malay society. While hurdles undoubtedly remain, adat has helped female empowerment progress further and deeper amongst Malays than among other sections of the Muslim ummah.

Alexander Wain, is Associate Fellow at the International Institute of Advanced Islamic Studies (IAIS) Malaysia


Source: https://www.nst.com.my/opinion/columnists/2019/03/471406/legacy-southeast-asias-muslim-women-rulers?fbclid=IwAR2VWaM1blfy73m7U3s9ND9jPR2jyrCFsftxDwlUkWlYmA3xGs4DcCT7dFw

Hundreds protest against child marriage in Lebanon

BEIRUT: Hundreds protested on Saturday in Lebanon against child marriage, demanding lawmakers forbid unions below the age of 18, in a country where some faiths allow girls to be wed at 14.

Organized by civil society groups, the rally attracted women of all ages — and some lawmakers — who marched on parliament in the capital Beirut, an AFP photographer said.

Some carried placards with slogans reading “Not before 18” and “Stop early marriage.”

Abir Abdel Razeq, a 22-year-old who carried her young daughter in her arms, said that she married at 14.
“I hope that my daughter does not get married early, and that she finishes school — I hope that she will not marry before she is 22,” Razeq said.

The protest came as a bill designating 18 as the minimum age for marriage awaits parliament’s consideration.
Lebanon does not have nationwide laws on marriage and divorce, since these areas are governed by the country’s 18 religious communities.

Elements of both the Muslim and Christian communities allow girls to be married at 14.

Rumah KitaB and the Campaign Against Child Marriage

Kathryn Robinson
Emeritus professor in Anthropology, Australian National Univerisity

Rights in marriage have been a key issue for women’s rights activists all over the world. Age at marriage is perhaps the most significant issue, even more than the free choice of a spouse. Child marriage has been a focus for Indonesian women for nearly a century. In the colonial era, family law was left to the Islamic courts, but the women’s congresses that were held regularly from 1928 argued for secular laws that would protect women’s rights in marriage, including a ban on child marriage and the necessity of a woman’s consent. This emphasis on secular regulation as the way to protect women’s rights bore fruit in the independence period with the passage of the 1974 marriage law which, amongst other things, set a minimum age of marriage, of 16 for females (19 for males) and required that the marriage officiant ensure the woman’s consent.

As education becomes more readily available and more young women are going on to finish high school, and even tertiary education there has been a movement upwards in average age at marriage but as the work of Rumah Kitab shows us, child marriage persists. What are the strategies to address this? The session organized by Rumah KitaB at the Kongres Ulama Perempuan in April 2017 focused on the religious basis of arguments about age at marriage. The kiyai focused on textual analysis of the Qur’an and hadith to show the complexity of the definition of baliq, and the difference between a purely biological concept and a notion of aqil baligh, an idea of adult personhood. This interesting return to religious argumentation was a response to the intervention of MUI in a 2015 constitutional court court judicial review of the marriage law, in particular the regulation of age at marriage. The review had been requested by activists (including Rumah Kitab) on the basis of an argument that Indonesian law should be  harmonized with 2002 Law on Child Protection , which set 18 as the age of adulthood.. The weight given to the MUI submission by the secular court is an interesting cross over between religious and secular courts, which were unified into a single system in Indonesia during the Suharto regime. Rumah KitaB were developing a textually based  argument that could challenge the interpretation offered by MUI, which relied on a single text. Law reform is always an important part of social change. Legal reforms provide venues where people can argue for rights, but also are an important part of raising awareness and changing attitudes. For example, in a case of forced marriage that occurred in the community where I was doing research in the late 1970s, not long after the passage of the marriage law, a local official said to me that if the girl had come to him, he would have stopped the marriage. Talk is cheap’ and he was not put to the test but his comment shows the way in which changes on law begin to circulate and be spoken about, and so potentially impact on people’s behavior. What other ways can child marriage be challenged, and social practices changed? Marriage (and the subsequent state of parenthood) is in most communities the path out of a state of childhood to adulthood. Marriage resulted in the formation of a new conjugal unit and household. For those fortunate enough to pursue schooling, educational success and employment are also ‘building blocks’ of adulthood, and delayed age at marriage has no doubt contributed to the decline of marriages arranged by parents, as young people meet prospective spouses during education and in their work place.

Kathryn Robinson at KUPI

But these opportunities are unevenly spread throughout the archipelago. Especially in eastern Indonesia, schools beyond SD level can be a long way from home. And employment can be even harder to find. In such situations, marriage is the only avenue available young women to achieve adulthood, independence from their families of origin, and they often willingly enter into marriage at a young age . In such contexts, educational and employment opportunities are a critical part of solutions to early marriage. The globalized world we now live in is highly sexualized. Mass media exposes us all to narratives and images that challenge customary forms of morality. I have been shocked at the ready availability, indeed the difficulty of avoiding pornographic content in Indonesia, on social and other forms of media. There is a ‘moral panic’ in Indonesia about ‘pergaulan bebas’. In some research I  conducted few years ago, young people who themselves led innocent lives almost universally identified ‘pergaulan bebas’ as the biggest threat confronting Indonesia’s youth. In addition, prolonged education means many young people live away from home and outside the every day ‘control’ of parents, which can be of concern to parents and children alike. In this context, I understand that recent research by Rumah KitaB has shown that some parents see early marriage as the way to address this perceived risk. But it could also be argued that good sex education on schools and religious institutions, including empowering young people to make informed choices and evaluate risks associated with sexual activity—including health, emotional, social and economic risks— could counter this perceived threat in a more effective way than early marriage. But all of these strands are important legal reform and the empowerment of young women, in terms of their knowledge base but also the practical issues around alternative paths put of childhood. [Kathryn]


Involving family in the ‘theatre of martyrdom’: A conceivable imminent trend

By: Sylvia W. Laksmi

A deadly suicide bombing occurred in Indonesia last year. A family of six rocked three churches in Surabaya as suicide bombers including the youngest child who was only nine years old. The Santa Maria Roman Catholic Church, the Christian Church of Diponegoro and the City’s Pentecost Church were three places of which the Islamic State-inspired family launched their attacks by using a motorcycle and a car.

Because of this shocking incident, 44 people were wounded at the scene, and 13 people were killed, according to the police.

Experts might ignore the role of women involving in violent terrorism, but the attacks proved that mothers played a significant role in leading their kids into terrorist action. There is a cynical perspective even in modern communities that most women have more feminine outlooks than men so that people view women and children as victims rather than as active offenders. Therefore, terrorist groups like the Islamic State then propagate them with the new concept of jihad by engaging family members locally.

The involvement of women and children in the narrative of violent extremism is not new. Even among terrorist groups, they now modify their strategies to exploit women as their agents of movement, which includes committing them as suicide bombers. The decision to bring family members into terrorist action is one of rational parental choice from the family of Dita Oepriarto, the mastermind of Surabaya bombing attacks. They believe that by doing amaliyah (the term of jihadist for self-sacrifice action), God will give them the highest prestigious rewards in the afterlife. This is their justification for their horrific actions.

The family is the closest linkage of socialization which imparts the value of ideology within the society. Parents are the main components who influence the behavior of their children including to whom they become loyal throughout their life.

In the end, if the parents choose to act on beliefs rooted in a violent radical ideology, soon after that, some if not the whole family adopt a similar way of thinking within the society.

In the Philippines, there is a great tendency for applying this strategy among terrorist groups including The Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP), and its armed wing, the New People’s Army (NPA).

Over the years since the 1970s, the trend of recruiting youth and children by the CPP NPA has been increasing significantly. They target the educated young people studying the country’s top universities by teaching openly the principles of Marxism, Leninism, and Maoism in schools and colleges. It is identified that those children who joined were primarily from large, disadvantaged, and rural families in areas of limited economic and social services opportunity.

However, besides the extensiveness of extreme inequalities and lack of governance in the countryside area, CPP-NPA also empowers its human resource by sustaining cadres based on the lifeblood of the organization. The vetting process of preparing the next generation of CPP-NPA is conducted in three stages such as spotting, social investigation, and actual participation. It covers the process of enhancing knowledge of political views and activities including the efforts of engaging the family members with the government officials.

Finally, the organization would be able to spot potential recruits as the next generation or cadres of CPP-NPA.

Against the backdrop of terrorism growth in the world, recently, Philippines has become a new hotbed of martyrdom theatre by IS-inspired groups, while the fifty-year old CPP-NPA movement continues to strategically destroy Philippine society from within families and government agencies alike.

The way Indonesian jihadists justify suicide bombing as the most rewarding activity in the afterlife could also be possibly copied by terrorists in the Philippines. At certain stages, the recruitment pattern in the CPP-NPA groups is an alert for the next developed concept of self-devotion of what has been done in Indonesia.

The government should be more aware of these vulnerabilities by involving the community to support and stop the massive propaganda done by the CPP-NPA among the youth generation in the Philippines as well as empowering women to be agents of peace for family and society.

Sylvia W. Laksmi is a Researcher and Ph. D. Candidate at National Security College, the Australian National University.

Source: http://notoviolence.ph/2019/02/05/involving-family-in-the-theatre-of-martyrdom-a-conceivable-imminent-trend/

Woman Qazi conducts marriage: A victory in women reclaiming spaces taken up by men

Although in Islam there is nothing that stops a woman from solemnising a nikah, the practice has been mostly limited to the male domain for centuries.

Amidst news of what women can and cannot do, and diktats on their right to religious freedom with regard to traditions and culture, a Muslim couple got their nikah solemnised by a woman Qazi earlier this month. This marks another victory in women reclaiming spaces that have just been taken up by men, irrespective of what religion has to say about it.

Maya and Shamaun, a couple based in Mumbai, got their nikah solemnised by Qazi Hakima Khatoon in Kolkata on January 5. A communications consultant by profession, Maya tells me that when a few years ago she read an article stating that a woman can also be a Qazi and solemnise a nikah, something that she was not aware of like most others because it is not common practice, she and Shamaun decided that their Qazi will be a woman.

Although in Islam there is nothing that stops a woman from solemnising a nikah, the practice is so uncommon that even locating a woman Qazi can be an impossible task. There have been earlier instances where a couple has asked a woman to carry out the nikah, but these instances are so rare and a woman Qazi so difficult to find that most nikahs, if not all, are conducted by men in Muslim families in India. Maya and her fiancé came across the Bharatiya Muslim Mahila Andolan’s (BMMA) website and saw that the movement had trained women Qazis in Quranic and constitutional rights. They got in touch with BMMA in 2017. When asked why they chose a woman to conduct the ceremony, the couple said ‘why not’.

Maya and Shamaun’s nikah marks a new beginning for women’s rights – an ordinary Muslim woman activist, who has, after undertaking a rigorous course on rights of women in the Quran and the Constitution, been invited by a regular couple to solemnise their wedding. A practice which has been mostly limited to the male domain for centuries. “It feels nice to give another woman a platform like this, which ideally should be easily available to her anyway. It has been empowering for her and me, both,” Maya tells me.

Qazi Hakima says she cannot explain in words what it has meant for her to be approached and to be able to successfully solemnise the nikah for the couple. She is also aware that as part of her duties as a Qazi she is responsible, under the training that she has taken, to ensure that there is proof of residence and age, and an affidavit from the groom stating that he is not previously married (the marriage is not polygamous). She has to make the couple go through the Nikahnama, fix the mehr (dower) amount and ensure that it is given at the time of the nikah, has to counsel the couple and ensure that the marriage is being carried out with their full consent. BMMA has trained 16 women Qazis in Maharashtra, MP, Rajasthan, Tamil Nadu, Karnataka and Odisha.

Maya, who is half-Bengali and half-British, has a degree from the School of Oriental and African Studies, London. Owing to her belonging to a liberal household, both her family as well as her in-laws were very happy with the decision of the couple. Until the wedding happened and people started reaching out to them, they did not see their decision to choose a woman to solemnise their wedding as ‘a big deal’.

“The biggest challenge,” says Noorjehan Safia Niaz, co-founder of the BMMA, “is to get couples to come forward. We need more Mayas and Shamauns – the new age, modern, liberal Muslim men and women.”

Muslim women have long been denied rights which the Quran has guaranteed to them, because of the patriarchal norms set by society at large to keep them confined and subjugated. This is changing today when the ordinary Muslim woman is questioning the status quo and is not ready to accept customs and traditions being forced on her in the name of religion. Whether it is re-entering Haji Ali and demanding that religious spaces be easily available to all women, or fighting to ban instant triple talaq, Muslim women are the frontline warriors fighting their own battles.

Qazi Hakima and her like need to be supported so that more couples come forward to get their nikahs solemnised by them – where the mehr will not be a mere eyewash and never be asked to be forgiven, the couple will be made aware of their rights and responsibilities, underage marriages will not be solemnised, and the bride will get all her due rights as per the Quran.

Mariya Salim is a woman’s rights activist and researcher, and a member of the Bharatiya Muslim Mahila Andolan. Views expressed are the author’s own.

Source: https://www.thenewsminute.com/article/woman-qazi-conducts-marriage-victory-women-reclaiming-spaces-taken-men-95855

NU Chairman Calls on Indonesian Muslims to Help Prevent Child Marriage


JANUARY 23, 2019

Jakarta. Said Aqil Siradj, chairman of Nahdlatul Ulama, the country’s largest Islamic organization, has called on Muslims to play an active role in helping to prevent child marriage in Indonesia.

“Preventing child marriage is a mighty important thing to do, to avoid the negative impacts on women and children,” Siradj said, as quoted in a statement by the Rumah Kita Bersama Foundation.

In a meeting with members of the foundation at Nahdlatul Ulama’s headquarters in Central Jakarta on Monday, Siradj also offered to hold a focus group discussion with NU’s education body to build a common understanding on the importance of preventing child marriage and increasing the organization’s role in ongoing efforts.

The Rumah Kita Bersama Foundation is a research institute for policy advocacy established in 2010. Its work focuses on fighting for the rights of marginalized communities.

Involving both religious and nonreligious organizations is considered a viable way to help end child marriage, especially in rural communities where it is still practiced and considered part of tradition.

Indonesia ranks 7th among countries with the highest absolute numbers of child marriage, with around one in nine girls married before they turn 18.

The prevalence of this practice in the archipelago affects approximately 375 girls every day, according to data published by the United Nations Children’s Fund (Unicef).

Despite the legal age of marriage being 21 in the country, there have been exemptions allowing girls as young as 16 to wed with parental consent.

In December, the Constitutional Court ruled that the government must change this minimum age requirement.

The court declared that the 1974 Marriage Law discriminated against girls and diverged with rules on child protection, and subsequently gave lawmakers three years to decide what the new minimum age should be.

However, many cases show that girls enter into religious marriages through nikah siri, which literally means “secret wedding,” that are not registered with the government. The underreported nature of child marriages means that grassroots-level efforts are key, and influential organizations such as Nahdlatul Ulama could therefore play a crucial role.

“Preventing child marriage is an urgent matter for us to reduce divorce rates and for families to thrive,” Siradj said.

Source: https://jakartaglobe.id/context/nu-chairman-calls-on-indonesian-muslims-to-help-prevent-child-marriage