I couldn’t agree more with the observations made by Christina Hoff Sommers in her book written way back 1995. The outspoken feminists then were claiming that they’re under siege. Yet, as Sommers put it, they lived in a country whose women were legally as free as the men and whose institutions of higher learning have more female than male.
The similarities of those observations made almost 20 years ago, with what we’re seeing now in Malaysia, are so glaring. Feminists in Malaysia, lagging behind their peers for almost two decades, thought that they’re promoting fresh new concepts altogether. And true enough, these feminists are very much privileged that we find it hard to understand what the fight is all about.
Except that in Malaysia, in order to find their argument worth listening to, they turn to Islam to be the scapegoat.
And here we find them musing about awrah (or as one put it as tudung), hudud and syariah law and even going against the institution of marriage. Feminism, being part of the definition of Liberal Islam according to Dr Ugi Suharto’s definition, reject the tenets of religion and even the universal value of sanctity in marriage and family values. Hence we have them supporting LGBT unconditionally.
These feminists claim that they are first, under siege by men. It’s the year 2015, and with more than 60% of workforce in Malaysia especially in the government sector are women, with almost 70% of universities’ enrollments are female students, they’re still humming the same tune. As a society might I ask, aren’t these men parts of us, our brothers or sons?
Next, they claim they are made to suffer because the rules of religion. Emulating slowly, but surely, we can see that the trend is to have an Islamic version of Elizabeth Cady Stanton which in the past had been successful in driving mass movements in doing away with many Biblical laws concerning women. Stanton wrote The Women’s Bible.
The same effort is being encouraged to find ayatul Quran and Hadeeth that suit the definition of feminism. These include gender equality that is defined by arbitrary numbers, the must-have-similar roles of men and women disregarding the output of those different roles as stipulated by Islam, which are successful marriages and harmonization of families. They also call for the same law in Syariah to be made applicable to every man and woman without seeing the reason behind their differences, especially the law regarding the dissolution of marriage. It starts as criticsm, but it’s obvious that it’s not merely a call to reinterpret (by unqualified scholars) but in some instances to completely do away with Quranic teachings eg polygamy. Simply browse the COMANGO documents and you can see how Syariah laws are disputed time and again.
Amina Wadud wrote the book “Quran and Women: Rereading the Sacred Text From a Women’s Perspective “. She was the first person to lead Jum’ah prayer in a mix congregation male and female and had also claimed that polygamy is the source of HIV infection.
Their problems are women like me and you and many others who don’t seem to have any problem living our lives as dictated by Islam, THE Islam that does not fit their feminism definition and THE Islam that are well received by faithful men and women.
The most recent article on the claim that Malays are obsessed with tudung, an observation from someone whom I thought would’ve travelled extensively and could’ve seen with her very own eyes how other women from other countries are “equally obsessed”, made me shake my head in disbelief. How could we have this sort of writings in our media? A personal grunting and frustration out of her inability to understand her religion well. I pray that she’ll soon come to her senses and see the beauty of Islam.
But above all, the author also complained of how the obsession of tudung brings about the culture of consumerism and capitalism. I don’t deny that and that’s why in the past we’ve reminded women on the right concept of covering awrah and tabarruj. But the capitalists who are cashing in on women’s exposed bodies and beauties are far too many and far worst that really deserved mentions by the author as well.
Some young people really believe that these feminists are underprivileged, being sidelined and are the minorities and they have the rights to complain. But these feminists dear, are exactly the opposite. They’re, as Sommers put it, well educated and received expensive educations. They’re newspaper columnists for goodness sake, who have been propagating these ideas against Islam for many many years, some even before you’re born.
The rest of us, climbed our way up. Proving ourselves in the midst of community that we could be successful, without abandoning the requirements of religion. Along the way, yes there’re many stories where people judged us by the tudung that we wore and doubted whether we could be professionals at all. Without having the chance to pen anywhere (those days when there’s no Facebook or online portals that we can have one of our own), we have to rely on our track records as a form of dakwah and to prove our ability. None of us are daughters of ex-prime ministers either to have our words carried with any weight. We didn’t have a Yayasan handed over to us. We started from scratch and have only Allah SWT to rely on.
The battle between al-Haq and al-Batil is never on a level playing field. The international parties that would like to see Malaysia to be secular are aplenty and powerful. These feminists who are elitists, are far from being victims. Powerful minorities, perhaps. And therefore, speak the truth, tell Islam as it is without being unnecessarily apologetic.
Prof Madya Dr Rafidah Hanim Mokhtar
Wanita Isma Information Chief
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