Punished By Allah Or Martyrs?

By now we have all heard about the tragedy involving Malaysia Airlines (MAS) Flight MH17.  The ill-fated Boeing 777-200ER plane was on a routine Amsterdam to Kuala Lumpur flight on July 17, 2014 when it was shot down by a BUK surface-to-air missile over Donetsk Oblast, Ukraine, approximately 50 km from the Ukraine-Russia border.  A total of 283 passengers and 15 crew on board lost their lives in the sky over rebel-controlled territory. But over in Malaysia there are conflicting views on how Muslims should treat the dead passengers who are Muslims.  Should they be treated as being punished by Allah, or are they martyrs?

PAS On Punishment By Allah

Malaysian were outraged after a recent comment by the leader of the youth arm of the Pan-Malaysian Islamic Party (PAS) concerning the dead victims of MH17.  Tarmizi Sulaiman, the information chief at Kedah PAS Youth reportedly said that this MH17 crash (and the earlier MH370 flight that disappeared into the Indian Ocean without trace) are punishment from Allah.

Tarmizi Sulaiman allegedly said that the flouting of Islamic rules by Malaysia Airlines has incurred the wrath of “Allah in the bellies of the planes”. Tarmizi Sulaiman cited as examples, the serving of alcohol on Malaysia Airlines flights and the outfits of flight attendants.

While sympathetic to the dead victims and their families, Tarmizi Sulaiman said that the senior management of Malaysia Airlines should “view the problems besetting MAS from the most basic of issues, the element of God and his creation”. Tarmizi Sulaiman added: “Flying in a MAS plane does not give passengers the feeling of an airline operated by a country which organises the annual Quran recital competition and in fact, even winning the competition”.

Reaction

Tee Hooi Ling, spokesman for the MCA Youth said: “It is disgraceful that there are insensitive quarters who are out to gain cheap publicity from the deaths of 298 people aboard MAS Flight MH17.  It is disgraceful that he is insinuating that this tragedy is a punishment from God against MAS for serving alcohol and allowing its crew to wear Malaysia’s traditional costume which he deems as indecent dressing”.

Martyrs

Kedah Mufti Datuk Paduka Syeikh Muhamad Baderudin said that Muslims who died on MH17 should be categorized as “syahid akhirat”, which translated into English means “afterlife martyrs”.  Explaining what this term means, Datuk Paduka Syeikh Muhamad Baderudin said: “Afterlife martyrs mean if we can identify the dead, we have to go through the funeral rites like any other deaths. We pray, shroud and bathe them, but in the afterlife they will be rewarded by Allah like martyrs”.

There is another kind of martyrs, called “life martyrs”. Those in the afterlife martyrs category has to go through the usual Islamic funeral rites.  Those in the life martyrs category will be rewarded in the afterlife.

Those who die fighting for Islam belong to both categories, but those who died fighting for material and personal glory only belong to afterlife martyrs.

Think About It

So are the Muslim dead of MH17 being punished by Allah “in the bellies of the planes”?  If so, were they then simply be in the wrong place at the wrong time?  After all, if Allah is punishing MAS for serving alcohol on board and for improper dressing of the cabin crew, then why kill innocent passengers? On the other hand, if they are martyrs, what exactly did they do to be called by that name?

Why 4?

A host of a recent Arabic talk show program asked Islamic clerics why Islam permits exactly four wives as opposed to only one or more than four. The talk show explored how different religions viewed marriage.

The Best Reason?

One cleric replied saying that before Islam existed, there was no limit as to how many wives an Arab man may have. But in the Koran at 4:3 it says that men may “marry such women as seem good to [them], two and three and four”. When a man came to Prophet Muhammad and told him that he had 19 wives, Prophet Muhammad told him to keep four and divorce the rest. So why 4?

The cleric told the host that Prophet Muhammad also said that a woman should be married for one of the four following reasons: beauty, lineage, wealth, or piety. The cleric went on to say that it is impossible to find one single woman with all four virtues. Therefore, a man is permitted to have four wives – ideally, with each wife possessing one of those four traits sought after in women.
Think About It

If men marry women for their beauty, lineage, wealth, or piety, what happens when that disappears? Does the Koran endorse divorce when a man’s wife loses her wealth or beauty and encourage him to find another more beautiful or wealthier wife? Is this law the cause of many marriages breaking up? Does this law suggest that women are mere commodities to men? How would this apply in countries where polygamy is illegal? Would a man marry only one woman but take three others to be his mistresses?

Amazing Declaration

The Islamic Republic of Iran Broadcasting, or IRIB, in short, is Iran’s state media company that has been regarded as observing poor reporting standards. Yet in the assessment of its critics, the quality of its programs has recently sunk to a new low.

The incident that prompted this evaluation was a program featuring Valiollah Naghipourfar, a cleric and professor at Tehran University. The presenter of the program asked Valiollah Naghipourfar whether ‘jinn’ or genies could be used for purposes of gathering information.

Without hesitation, the professor answered in the affirmative. He then added that as they are skilled in sorcery, the Jewish people are good at deploying jinn to undermine Iran. In fact, according to him, the majority of sorcerers are Jews.

What/Who Are Jinn?

Jinn (singular: jinni) are supernatural creatures in both Islamic and Arabic mythologies and are featured in the Quran or Koran. They live in a world that is invisible to humans. According to the Quran, jinn are made up of scotching but smokeless fire. Yet, they also have a body like human beings and thus are able to physically interact with people.

And like humans, jinn can be good, evil or neutral. Still, most of them are demonic, and are routinely used by sorcerers and magicians to cause harm to people whom they don’t like, such as an enemy, a competing suitor, or even a mother-in-law!

A Tolerant Society, Really

Observers have pointed out that the foregoing anti-Semitism comments by Valiollah Naghipourfar represent only the view of a minority of Iranians who are Islamic conservatives, if not extremists. Unfortunately, many of them occupy high positions in society and politics. As such, their biased views get widely reported (at least within Iran), and this ‘helps’ to create the impression that the nation is feverishly anti-Christians and anti-Jews to the world at large.

But the reality is rather different. Actually, the Iranian people have a long history of religious tolerance until today, even if the ruling class does not. In particular, young Iranians by and large tend to socialize with one another rather freely, without paying much regard to the other person’s religious background. As a result, Jewish Iranians generally feel that they are more Iranian than Jewish, and have found it safe and comfortable enough to live in Iran. This is in sharp contrast with Arab Jews in the Middle East, who have mostly escaped from their home countries and relocated to the safety of Israel or the Western countries.

A writer recalls his experience, in Egypt, of a Christian landlady complaining about Muslim butchers who allowed blood from the sheep they had slaughtered for sale to drip freely (due to their Halal killing practice). And he remembers that while in Beirut, Lebanon, he observed it was common for people to ask for each other’s last names in an attempt to guess one’s religious background, before engaging in even casual conversation. Compared to these behaviors, the average Iranian is religiously enlightened indeed.

Think About It

Why did Valiollah Naghipourfar accuse Jews as good at undermining Iran and claim that most sorcerers are Jews? Was he concerned about the well-being of Iran and its people and thus warning them about an enemy, or was he simply spreading superstition and engaging in fear-mongering? Owing to historical and religious reasons, the Middle East is already a mega-powder keg. Is promoting mistrust, hatred and hostility among nations and races the way to go for a leader?

“To Raise Awareness Of Our Religion Among Women”

Raqqa, which is under the control of the Sunni militant group called the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS), has a new brigade called the  al-Khansaa Brigade.  But this is not the usual army brigade.  It is in fact a all-female ISIS Brigade, charged with enforcing ISIS’s strict brand of Sharia law among local women. The al-Khanasaa Brigade, purportedly formed by ISIS “to raise awareness of our religion among women”, ended up using fear to do its enforcement duty, with those arrested facing harsh punishments.

About The Al-Khansaa Brigade

ISIS has given the al-Khansaa Brigade the mandate to arrest civilian women who fail to adhere to ISIS’s strict brand of Sharia law.  Included as Sharia offenses are failure of women to be fully covered in public, and that women must be accompanied by a male guardian (chaperone).

Abu Ahmad, an ISiS official in Raqqa said: “There are only women in this brigade, and we have given them their own facilities to prevent the mixture of men and women”. He went on to say: “We have established the brigade to raise awareness of our religion among women, and to punish women who do not abide by the law”.  Abu Ahmad added: ” Jihad is not a man-only duty. Women must do their part as well”.

But who are the members of the al-Khansaa Brigade?  Undoubtedly there are some local women from Raqqa who joined, but press reports indicate that most of the members are the wives of mujahedeen who come to Raqqa to fight.  They come from other parts of Syria or the region.

The Al-Khansaa Brigade In Action

Abu al-Hamza, a local media activist, did not mince his words.  He said concerning the al-Khansaa Brigade: “ISIS created it to terrorize women”.  Elaborating further, Abu al-Hamza referred to a recent raid by the al-Khansaa Brigade on Raqqa’s Hamida Taher Girls School which resulted in the arrest of 10 students, 2 teachers and a secretary.  Some of these arrested females were charged with wearing veils that were too thin while others were charged with showing too much of their face by not properly pinning hair clips under the veil.

According to Abu al-Hamza, this is what happened after the arrest of these girls: “After arresting those women and girls,they took them to ISIS prisons and locked them in for six hours and punished some of them with 30 whips each.

Abu al-Hamza cited another case to back his statement that the al-Khansaa Brigade was “created to terrorize women”.  He referred to what happened to Zainab, a local teen, who was arrested by the al-Khansaa Brigade about 4 months back.  Here is Zanab’s account of her arrest: “I was walking down the street when a car suddenly stopped and a group of armed women got out. They insulted me and yelled at me. They took me to one of their centers and kept me locked in a room. Nobody talked to me or told me the reason for my detention. One of the women in the brigade came over, pointing her firearm at me. She then tested my knowledge of prayer, fasting and hijab”.

And what was Zainab’s crime?  She was guilty of walking alone without a male chaperone, and also for not wearing her hijab properly.  Zainab was released 2 hours later with a warning of harsher punishment should she be arrested again.  Zainab was told specifically: “You should be punished for taking your religion lightly”.

After her ordeal ended, Zainab concluded: “The brigade has created fear among the women and girls of Raqqa. We’ve seen how they move, always watching women on the street, raiding schools, arresting students and locking them in for hours”.

Think About It

Should Muslim women live in a climate of fear?  Should they be subject to arbitrary arrest, detention and punishment (whipping) for offenses like not being properly veiled and lack of male guardians? Is the ISIS’s brand of Sharia law a backward and discriminatory step for women in Raqaa?

“We Want To Make A Burka-free Britain”

The European Court of Human Rights ruled earlier this month that France has the right to ban full face veils may have opened a floodgate across Europe.  Several European countries are now mulling the imposition of the burqa ban in their countries, among them, Austra, Norway and Denmark. The other European country that banned the burqa is Belgium which did it in 2011. Over in Britain, the move to ban the burqa is spearheaded by, of all people, an imam who declared: “We want to make a burqa-free Britain”.

About The Imam

The imam who made the call for a burqa-free Britain is no ordinary imam.  He is Dr Taj Hargey, who heads the Muslim Educational Centre of Oxford.  Dr Taj Hargey launched his campaign to ban the burqa this week, declaring: “We should follow what France and Belgium have done”.

Dr Taj Hargey elaborates further on his campaign, saying: “No one – including women – has an unqualified right to dress how they like in public. You or I could not walk down the street naked, or wearing just socks”.  Calling the wearing of the veil a “fad” which is “totally ridiculous”, Dr Taj Hargey went on to point out that women pilgrims are not allowed to cover their faces during the Hajj pilgrimage in Mecca, and he asked: “If there’s no obligation to cover their faces in the holiest places of Islam, why do they feel the need to cover their faces in the UK?”

To those women who insist on wearing the burqa, Dr Taj Hargey had this question: “How come their mothers or grandmothers never wore it? Were they bad Muslims? No, of course not”.  And according to Dr Taj Hargey, the reason is because there is nothing in the Quran that requires people to mask their faces.

Dr Taj Hargey mentioned 3 other points in arguing for the ban.  First, full face covering poses a security risk, and it allows male criminals to hide behind the veil to commit crimes.  Secondly, it promotes “social segregation and community apartheid”.  Lastly, it poses a health risk due to a lack of vitamin D which comes from the sun.

Dr Taj Hargey’s campaign aims to gather 100,000 signatures on an official petition, which would then oblige the UK Parliament to debate the issue. He said that no one has a right to anonymity in public and therefore his campaign extends to other apparel that obscures the face, such as balaclavas and ski masks.

Reactions

Dr Taj Hargey’s campaign has not gone down well with other Muslims groups which called the proposed burqa ban a “dangerous” move.  Talha Ahmad, chairman of the membership committee at the Muslim Council of Britain said concerning Dr Taj Hargey: “Firstly, he is a man. He should not really be articulating a view on what women should or should not do. If I went around telling people to put their veil on, that would be equally wrong. Positions like his are very dangerous. He clearly doesn’t understand the British values of freedom… His arguments feed into the whole Islamophobic narrative”.

Referring to Dr Taj Hargey’s point that the burqa is a security risk that allow men to commit crimes, Samina Akhtar, director of Glasgow-based Amina – The Muslim Women’s Resource Centre, said: “I’m not sure there’s any evidence to show that it is a security risk. It’s not going to reduce crime. Crime will continue. If those men had not worn a burqa, they would have found something else”.  Continuing, Samina Akhtar said: “Women have a choice what they wear.”

As for Dr Taj Hargey’s argument that wearing the veil promotes “social segregation and community apartheid”, Samina Akhtar said: “It only creates a division if you want to create a division. Women who wear the burqa can choose when to wear it” She added that some doctors and teachers do not wear the veil while at work.

Agreeing with Samina Akhtar, Omer El-Hamdoon, president of the Muslim Association of Britain said that women should be allowed to “wear whatever they want”. To which Dr. Sheikh Ramzy, director of the Oxford Islamic Information Centre added: “As an Islamic scholar, I do not recommend a face cover. But I do encourage freedom of choice. If you don’t want to see a woman in a burqa, then turn your face”.

Stephen Evans, campaigns manager at the National Secular Society said: “There are understandable and legitimate concerns about the wearing of the burqa or niqab, particularly regarding what it symbolises, its role in the subjugation of women and its potential to hinder a woman’s ability to communicate and integrate within civil society. There are however compelling reasons, both practical and on principle, to oppose attempts to introduce a general ban on the veil – not least a woman’s right to choose what she wears and her right to religious freedom”.

Credentials Challenged

Talha Ahmad said of Dr Taj Hargey: “He personally doesn’t strike me as a scholar – in either the traditional or contemporary sense – of Islamic theology”.

Samina Akhtar said: “I’m not sure if he’s even read the Quran… He’s being Islamophobic”.

Agreeing, Dr Sheikh Ramzy said: “This man Taj Hargey calls himself an imam. But he’s not an imam and he’s not an Islamic scholar.  He does not understand anything about Islam. I would like to leave it to the sisters to choose what they would like to wear… It is an un-Islamic thing he is trying to do”.

But to these critics who challenged to his Islamic credentials, Dr Taj Hargey had this reply: “I have a PhD  in Islamic Studies from Oxford University, so who’s to say I’m not an Islamic scholar?”  Then addressing reporters, Dr Taj Hargey asked: “Why don’t you ask them what qualifications they have?”

Think About It

What can be said of Dr Taj Hargey’s argument that since women pilgrims are not allowed to cover their faces during the hajj in Mecca, which is Islam’s holiest place, so why cover up in Britain?  Does he have a point here?  If so, is he then right in saying that wearing the burqa (or for that matter, the niqab) is a fad which is not commanded in the Quran?  Or is Samina Akhtar right in saying that Dr Taj Hargey is being Islamophoic, and he may not even have read the Quran? And is Dr Sheikh Ramzy also right in saying that Dr Taj Hargey is trying to do an un-Islamic thing by banning the burqa?

Previous posts

European Court Of Human Rights Upholds French Burqa Ban
European Countries Reconsider Proposals To Ban The Burqa

“Enjoining Good And Forbidding Wrong Is Among The Most Important Islamic Duties”

Fed up with insults being hurled on those paramilitary Basij or seminary students who practise “Enjoining Good and Forbidding Wrong”, a group of Principlist MPs in the Iranian parliament last month submitted a proposal to legalize these paramilitary Basij.  Prior to this, there had been cases of such paramilitary Basij being attacked.

About This Doctrine

Wikipedia explains this doctrine of Enjoying Good and Forbidding Wrong this way:

“Enjoining good and forbidding wrong, (Arabic: al-amr bi ‘l-maʿruf wa ‘n-nahy ʿan al-munkar) or promotion of virtue and prevention of vice, is an Islamic doctrine mentioned in the Quran. This expression is the base of the Islamic institution of hisbah. It forms a central part of the Islamic doctrine for all Muslims. It is also explicitly referred to in the two Shi’a Ancillaries of the Faith, commanding what is just and forbidding what is evil”.

Put it another way,  Enjoining Good and Forbidding Wrong means a Muslim may suggest to others, or order them, to do what is considered proper according to logic and Sharia, or conversely, not to do what is considered inappropriate to Sharia.

The proposed Act will curtail personal freedoms by legalizing the act of any individual wishing to intrude into the lives of others.

Insults And Attacks

Below are some recent examples of paramilitary Basij members being hurt or insulted:

In April, a Basij member tried to stop alcohol consumption at a wedding.  He was assaulted by wedding guests.  A month earlier, in March, Basij member Ali Khalili was killed under unknown circumstances.  Press reports referred to him as a “martyr in the path of Enjoining Good and Forbidding Wrong.

Based on these and other cases, certain MPs decided that the time is right to give “special support” for those who promote Islamic values in the streets. As MP Seyed Hossein Naghavi Hosseini puts it: “Recently, we have witnessed that the people who are engaged in promoting Islamic values have been insulted”

If the bill before Parliament is passed, no institution will be allowed to arrest those engaged in Enjoining Good and Forbidding Wrong.

Reactions

Moshen Kadivar, visiting professor of religious studies at Duke University in America said: “We have very little evidence and hadith from the Prophet or the Shiite Imams regarding this Islamic ritual in comparison to other Islamic rituals such as fasting, pilgrimage to Mecca, praying or zakat [alms giving]. Most of these hadith regarding the issue of enjoining good and forbidding wrong are in the context of people criticizing and advising the rulers and those responsible for governance. The most famous reference to this Islamic ritual is the rebellion of Imam Hossein against the cruel Umayyad caliphs”.

Mahmoud Sadri, a professor of sociology at the University of Texas said: “In Sharia, the requirement of encouraging others to do good and preventing them from committing evil is the manner which increases its success. This means that advice should be appealing to the listeners and it should not anger them, humiliate them or force them to cover their wrong act and continue it”.

Last May, Ayatollah Mohammad Taqi Mesbah-Yazdi who  addressed a conference on “Ways of Realizing Enjoing Good and Forbidding Wrong” said: “Enjoining good and forbidding wrong is among the most important Islamic duties which has been suggested in the most reliable of hadith”.

An unnamed Basij member said: “The city is full of corruption and filth. There are parties in every street and girls will soon try to come to the streets with bikinis and underwear. The administration does not care, but we will not stand quietly on the side. We are doing what the Quran, our Prophet, the Revolution and the Ayatollah Khamenei want us to do. We are doing our duty, whether the law supports us or if it does not. Of course, it is much better if we do have the backing of the law”.

Think About It

The members of the paramilitary Basij are mainly seminary student volunteers.  Does granting them protection by law mean legalizing their activities on the streets?  Do they then have the same right as the morality police?  Conversely, does that then mean the rights of the ordinary Iranians in the streets are curtailed?  Can the 2 be reconciled?  Will the twain ever meet?

Calls For Death

The creator of “The 99″, a comic book series featuring a team of superheroes based on Islamic culture and religion, is the subject of death threats made by the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) and Al-Qaeda. They deem “The 99″ to be blasphemous because the 99 superheroes are named after the 99 characteristics attributed to Allah in the Quran. The threats have taken the form of Twitter posts calling for the killing of the creator of “The 99″ series, clinical psychologist and media executive Nayef Al-Mutawa.  A reward is offered to his killer. A tweet by ISIL and Al-Qaeda said, “There is no good in us if he remains alive for over three days”. Another tweet, from ISIL, said “Who can kill Nayef Al-Mutawa who makes fun of Allah’s names?”

“The 99″

The storyline in “The 99″ is about how the 99 superheroes pursue social justice and peace against the forces of evil. The 99 superheroes have special qualities (such as generosity, strength, faithfulness, wisdom) conferred on them by “Noor” gemstones. They are pitted against a set of evil characters whose leader seeks to steal the power of the gemstones for his personal benefit. Their leader is intended to resemble Osama bin Laden with his militant Islam and his dictatorial intentions.

Although the series is based on Islamic backgrounds, it has been promoted as appealing to universal virtues. The series has been named by Forbes as one of the top 20 trends sweeping the globe, and Nayef Al-Mutawa has been praised by US President Barack Obama for his creativity.

The series has, however, previously been ruled blasphemous. The Grand Mufti, Abdulaziz al-Sheikh, the head of the Permanent Committee for Islamic Research and Issuing Fatwas in Saudi Arabia, said, “The 99 is a work of the devil that should be condemned and forbidden in respect to Allah’s names and attributes”.

Nayef Al-Mutawa’s Response

Nayef Al-Mutawa says that he is taking the threats seriously, and that he plans to take legal action against those behind the Twitter accounts.

He described his work as “humanitarian artwork”, and said that he had received clearance from sharia scholars, who told him that the idea and the comics do not contain insults to Allah or to Islam. He also said “My work has glorified Islam from the US to China for the past 10 years”.

Think About It

Is it blasphemous to name characters after the qualities attributed to Allah when those qualities chosen are ones that are possessed also by mere mortals? Nayef Al-Mutawa claims that the sharia scholars he consulted said that his work did not contain insults to Allah or to Islam.  Will those scholars, or others who share their opinions, dare to defend him now? If not, how can extremist Islamic groups and terrorism be contained?

Beaten To Death For Serving Lentils Instead Of Goat

A 75-year-old man, a Pakistani immigrant, has been sentenced in New York to 18 years’ jail for beating his wife to death. And the reason for the beating was that she served him lentils instead of goat as he had requested. Apparently he did not beat her immediately on being served the lentils. He beat her as she lay in bed, probably starting the attack after she had fallen asleep. She was struck more than 20 times about her head, face and arms. She died from a brain haemorrhage. The vicious attack, done with a stick, took place in April 2011.

The Court Case

The husband, Noor Hussain, admitted only to striking her with a wooden stick. He maintained that his wife of 21 years, Nazar Hussain, “disrespected” him by swearing, and he believed that he was entitled to discipline her. He also said, “I am a true Muslim. I never fight with my wife”. As his lawyer, who did not refute the allegation that Noor Hussain had beaten his wife to death, put it, “He comes from a culture where he thinks this is appropriate conduct, where he can hit his wife”.

Pleas for leniency, on grounds of his age, his inability to speak English, and the hardship of not having Pakistani food in prison did not move the judge, who, referring to the prosecutor’s request for a maximum sentence, said that because of Noor Hussain’s age, 18 years would likely be a life sentence.

Islam And Wife Beating

Does Islam allow a man to beat his wife? The short answer is yes. However, the reasons for beating and the severity of beating have been interpreted in different ways.

The moderate interpretation is that the wife can be beaten only if she doesn’t do as the husband asks and the beating must stop when the woman complies with her husband’s demands.  Beating is also to be the last resort, when attempts at peaceful resolution and other measures, such as verbal abuse and refusal to share a bed, have failed. The wife is to recognize that the husband is the head of the household and that she should listen to him. Any beating should be “light” (so as to leave no mark) and the face should be avoided.

Others cite reasons for beating as refusal of the wife to beautify herself for her husband, her refusal of sex with her husband, her refusal to pray or perform ritual abortions, and when she goes out of the house without a valid excuse. Also, some interpret beating as “scourging”, and some cite how Prophet Muhammad struck his wife Aisha on the chest when he found her following him out surreptitiously one night.

Think About It

Can Noor Hussain’s behaviour be considered “appropriate conduct” for a “true Muslim”? What can be done to change the perception that Muslim men have the right to be violent against their wives? Who are the best people to change this perception? Campaigners for women’s rights, or Islamic leaders?

Previous posts

Campaign In Scotland Aims To Change Perception That Wife-beating Is Islamic
Indonesia – Muslim Wife Number 4 Bashed For Not Serving Drink To Husband
United Kingdom – Are British Courts Yielding To Sharia Law?
Afghanistan – Will Propositions To Promote Women’s Rights Become Law?
Saudi Arabia – Study Uncovers Prevalence Of Home Violence Against Women

Messing With Menses

UMNO legal adviser Dato’ Mohd Hafarizam Harun stirred the hornet’s nest with his ill-advised comment that a woman is not suitable to be menteri besar or the prime minister.  And the reason has everything to do be her menses.  That statement triggered a fierce response from many quarters, and UMNO appears to be engaging in damage control activities.

The Menses Statement

Dato’ Mohd Hafarizam Harun’s controversial statement suggests that  menstruating women are not suitable to head any state government which has a Sultan.  His logic is that a menstruating woman would face obstacles in her official duties, like escorting the Sultan to a function.

UMNO went into damage control mode, with Khairy Jamaluddin, UMNO Youth chief saying that a menteri besar’s job is to administer the state.  Khairy Jamaluddin added: “I personally feel a woman qualifies to be menteri besar or the prime minister… but not that woman”, referring to Datuk Seri Dr Wan Azizah Wan Ismail, wife of opposition leader Dato’ Seri Anwar Bin Ibrahim.  Khairy also downplayed the charge by Dato’ Mohd Hafarizam Harun that a menstruating woman menteri besar will have a problem escorting the Sultan.

Datuk Seri Dr Wan Azizah Wan Ismail is a potential candidate for the Selangor menteri besar.  She came under attack because she suffers from “uzur syarie” (menses).

Enter Dyana Sofya Mohd Daud

Dyana Sofya Mohd Daud is a lawyer who also works as political secretary for the opposition DAP.  She writes a regular column for The Malay Mail Online.   Dyana Sofya Mohd Daud contested the recent Teluk Intan by-election as a DAP candidate, losing by a narrow margin.

Reacting to Dato’ Mohd Hafarizam Harun’s view against women becoming menteri besar or prime minister, Dyana Sofya Mohd Daud said: “This statement from UMNO legal adviser Dato’ Hafarizam is another testament to show how UMNO has failed to promote women in politics. It is precisely this sort of negative attitude by those in power that has constantly robbed women of opportunities to lead in this nation”.

Dyana Sofya Mohd Daud added: “Only a person with a caveman mentality can deny women the opportunity and right to hold a leadership position in government simply because she may not be able to perform certain ceremonial acts during “that time of the month”, even though she is perfectly capable of performing her governing and administrative obligations”.

Dyana Sofya Mohd Daud continued: “In the Muslim world, we had Benazir Bhutto who was the first Muslim woman to head a democratic government as Prime Minister of Pakistan in 1988. Her achievement was followed by Begum Khaleda Zia, Prime Minister of Bangladesh from 1991-1996 and again from 2001-2006. If the people of Pakistan and Bangladesh had leaders with the same mental capacity of Dato’ Hafarizam, these remarkable women would never have been allowed to rise to their eminent positions. Sadly in Malaysia, and in the year 2014, we still have leaders who think having menses is a handicap that disqualifies women from being a head of government”.

Think About It

Did Dato’ Mohd Hafarizam Harun make that statement about a woman not being suitable to be menteri besar because she suffers from “uzur syarie” (menses) as a personal opinion, or as legal adviser to UMNO?  If the latter, is it then also the opinion of the Malaysian government?  How can such attitude be changed?  If left unchanged, wouldn’t this be discriminating against women in becoming menteri besar?  After all, the  only constitutional requirement is that the menteri besar must be a Malay – without specifying the gender of that menteri besar.

“This Is The Fate Of Any Prostitution”

Unknown gunmen raided 2 apartment buildings in Baghdad one night several months ago and using silencers, killed 27 prostitutes.  On the wall of one of the raided apartments they left their calling card – a message identifying themselves as jihadists.  That message read simply: “This is the fate of any prostitution”.

Whodunit?

Exactly who did this execution is not known at this stage.  In fact, since the executioners used silencers on their weapons, nobody actually knew about the killings until the dead bodies began to smell.

23-year old student Wissam Sami, a resident of Zayouna who lived near the apartment blocks where the killings took place said: “People are afraid. They don’t know their neighbours. Everyone’s concerned about the safety of their own family and home.… Some prostitutes were killed near me a few months ago and the neighbours only found out days later because of the smell”.

Wissam Sami added: “I don’t know who carries out these killings. Both Daash and the Shiite militias wear black and anyone can buy a uniform or fake an identity card”.

Daash is an Arabic word often used to describe Sunni militants, more specifically the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant.  Following last month’s conquest of swathes of land in Iraq’s northern and western regions, the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant now calls itself the Islamic State (Caliphate), with its own Caliph .

36-year old Hassan Assad, who works as a taxi driver, said: “Everyone’s afraid. Let me be killed but I have to say what’s in my heart. I’m a Shiite, and I’m telling you these were Shiite gangs. Who else controls Baghdad? They’re more powerful than the police and any other authority”.

Ironically, the 2 apartment blocks are located near a mosque and a kindergarten, places least expected to come under Jihadist attacks.

Possible Reason

More than who did it is the question, why?   Perhaps the message on the wall – “This is the fate of any prostitution” – gives a clue.  In the Quran there is this verse: “And whomever Allah leaves astray – there will be for him no guide. For them will be punishment in the life of this world, and the punishment of the Hereafter is more severe. And they will not have from Allah any protector.” (Qur’an 13:33-34).

From the jihadists’ perspective, prostitution is displeasing Allah – it is considered immoral in Islam.  Somehow the jihadists consider that killing prostitutes is a meritorious act and Allah will reward them for the killing.

Reactions

On the streets of Baghdad, people are reluctant to talk about this, but a few do.  Hassan Assad said: “The prostitutes have been here since Saddam’s time. Why do you think they’re doing this? Because their husband has been imprisoned or killed and they’re trying to feed their kids. How did Iraq come to this?”

An unidentified shopkeeper said: “It’s the rule of the strong over the weak”. Then somewhat defiantly, he added: “So what if they were prostitutes? It’s God who judges us, after all”.

Another shopkeeper, also unidentified, said: “People are tired of the prostitutes. They attract criminals and immoral people”.

Think About It

Apparently this is not the first killing of prostitutes.  Local residents said that every month there are prostitutes killed.  Yet it seems that the government is not doing anything to help them.  Granted that the government has higher priorities to tackle, including reclaiming territories lost to the rebel jihadists. Even so, can the other reason be that both Sunnis and Shiites really do not respect women in their societies? In fact they both have extreme antipathy to sex workers   If so, what can be done to change that attitude?