Malaysia

 Sisters in Islam (SIS) can continue using the word ‘Islam’ in its name, the High Court ruled here today. The court struck out an application by Muslim non-governmental organisation Malaysian Assembly of Mosque Youth (MAMY) to prevent SIS from using its Sisters in Islam name on grounds that the word ‘Islam’ was controlled and limited by the Registrar of Companies. Update to Malaysia: Open letter by FORUM-ASIA regarding lawsuit against SIS

Les associations féminines, à commencer par la mienne, Sisters in Islam (SIS), se sont félicitées de cette mesure longuement attendue, car les femmes rencontrent de multiples problèmes dans les tribunaux islamiques, surtout s'agissant d'affaires de la famille. Dans le cadre de ses revendications pour la justice et l'égalité des musulmans, le SIS réclamait ces nominations depuis 1999 et plus.

Women leaders from both the government and non-governmental organisations have slammed the move by the Malacca government to allow underage Muslims to marry. Women, Family and Community Development Minister Datuk Seri Shahrizat Abdul Jalil, while acknowledging that marriages involving Muslim minors would still require the approval of the Syariah Court, hoped the judges would continue to exercise their discretion.

We do need to look at justice with a gender perspective. It is always women who suffer, both from injustice and society’s blindness towards it. IT SEEMS to be the unchanging lot of women in Malaysia. First we are elevated, and then we are brought down to earth with a thud. When the first women syariah judges were appointed this month, Muslim women were elated. At last, not only are women recognised for their ability to sit on the syariah bench but also perhaps now we can expect better justice for women in the syariah courts.

A landmark study on polygamy in Malaysia has cast doubt on whether husbands in polygamous marriages are able to treat their wives and children equally as intoned by the Quran. The study, conducted by Sisters in Islam in collaboration with academics from several local universities, found that while almost 80% of husbands interviewed said they could be fair, their wives disagreed. Researcher Masjaliza Hamzah said just over half of the second wives interviewed in the study said their husbands could be fair. Among first wives, only 35% shared this view. “Among the wives, the first wife is the most dissatisfied. She experiences the strongest effects as she is able to compare the polygamous marriage with when she was in a monogamous marriage. In many cases, they expressed sadness, a sense of being wronged and betrayal,” Masjaliza said.

Young men dressed in sharp suits and Muslim prayer hats stand on a brightly lit stage, arms linked. The chief judge of a new reality TV show calls out one of the contestants' names. "I regret to announce that young leader Syakir has reached the end of the road." Dramatic music plays as all the contestants hug. Imam Muda, or young leader, is the first show of its kind. The winner gets a full scholarship to study in Saudi Arabia, a car, and a job as an imam at one of the main mosques in Kuala Lumpur. Contestants, all under the age of 28, are tested on their Islamic knowledge. Each week they face challenges, from counselling troubled teens to preparing the dead.

THERE was an increase in marriages involving underage Muslims in the Federal Territory last year. This goes against the assumption that child marriages are now on the decline due to changing cultural trends. Last year, 49 Muslim girls under 16 years of age and 39 boys under 18 tied the knot. According to the statistics provided by the Federal Territory Religious Department, this number was higher compared with the previous year.

Islamic religious authorities should follow procedures when they are carrying out khalwat raids. Non-governmental organisations said officers conducting the raids would not be accused of acting beyond their jurisdiction if they did so. They said this when asked to comment on the incident in which a 21-year-old college student fell to his death from an apartment in Gombak while trying to escape a khalwat raid. It was reported that the raid was carried out by several mosque committee members after residents complained of immoral activities at the apartment. Sisters in Islam (SIS) said khalwat raids shouldn’t be carried out in a way that degrades human dignity.

The Asian Forum for Human Rights and Development (FORUM-ASIA) is deeply concerned over a lawsuit filed against Sisters in Islam (SIS), a group of women human rights defenders advocating for women’s rights in Malaysia. We received information that on 22 March 2010, the Malaysian Assembly of Mosque Youths (MAMY) filed a lawsuit against SIS through its lawyer, Mr. Sahlan Saruddin. The MAMY is questioning the use of the word “Islam” in the website and publications of SIS. It claims that “Islam” is a word controlled and limited by the Registrar of Companies and can only be used after obtaining permission from the Companies Commission of Malaysia (SSM) and related government agencies which deal with Islamic affairs. The MAMY also claims that SIS only uses the word “Islam” to attract people’s attention and its use of this word causes confusion to the public. The letter to Prime Minister’s Office is attached.

In a Press Statement issued by Sisters in Islam (SIS), the Malaysian women's group, one of the most well-known nongovernment groups in this Muslim-majority country, registered their happiness with the decision by Sultan of Pahang, Duli Yang Maha Mulia Tuanku Sultan Haji Ahmad Shah, to commute Kartika’s caning sentence to community service. According to Kartika Sari Dewi Shukarno's father, Kartika received a letter dated March 26 from the Pahang state Islamic and Malay Culture Council on Wednesday, informing her the Pahang Sultan had decided to spare her the caning. Kartika, a former part-time model, was sentenced in July last year to six strokes of the cane and a fine RM5,000 for drinking beer in December 2007 at a beach resort, in violation of 'Sharia' laws. Meanwhile, The Malaysian Assembly of Mosque Youth (MAMY) is seeking an order from the High Court to prevent SIS Forum (Malaysia) from using “Sisters In Islam” as its name and identity because of its criticism of the application of these laws.

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