Subscribe to Secularism is a Womens Issue

Secularism is a Women’s Issue

Home > fundamentalism / shrinking secular space > Malaysia: Targetting the progressive women’s organisation ’Sisters in (...)

Malaysia: Targetting the progressive women’s organisation ’Sisters in Islam’

Monday 5 August 2019, by siawi3


Malaysia: PAS attempt to sideline SIS a dangerous move, says PJ MP

Saturday 30 March 2019,

by Malaysiakini

Petaling Jaya MP Maria Chin Abdullah has ticked off PAS for pushing its own agenda on the issue of the government allocating funds to Sisters In Islam (SIS).

Maria said PAS Rantau Panjang MP Siti Zailah Mohd Yusoff’s remark was “nothing more than an attempt by PAS to nudge the government towards the selective and preferential distribution of funds based on religious and ideological beliefs.â€

This is dangerous, she warned, as it casts a religious light on government allocations.

“In the new Malaysia, we should rise above differences and extend our humanity and compassion to those who need our assistance.

“We must not be blinded by our differences and instead protect and stand up for the marginalised, infirm, poor, those with disabilities, discriminated, beaten and struggling,†she said in a statement today.

On Thursday, Siti Zailah had questioned Deputy Women, Family and Community Development Ministry Minister Hannah Yeoh over an RM20,000 allocation to SIS.

Siti Zailah brought up fatwas issued by the Islamic affairs departments of several states that declared the NGO a “deviant group.â€

In an immediate response, Yeoh had said her ministry provided funding to SIS on the basis it had done a lot to provide legal assistance to women.

Don’t demonise

Maria said in her statement that PAS must stop demonising SIS, and focus instead on the work that it does.

“Ministry funds must be nonpartisan. SIS clearly fits the criteria set by the ministry which includes improving women’s welfare and advocating for human rights,†she said.

“Moreover, the NGO has checks and balances in its financial management that makes it transparent and accountable.

“It is high time that PAS starts placing more importance on understanding the welfare work that SIS does and not demonise the organisation.â€

According to Maria, SIS has been advocating for equal rights in Malaysia for many years while its free legal clinic, Telenisa, has assisted 8,400 people since 2003 in matters of Islamic family law and syariah criminal offences.

“This involves cases related to divorces, polygamy cases, child custody, and property,†she said.

“Without organisations like SIS, these marginalised women might not be able to receive the support they need and will end up defenceless.

“PAS should realise that such attacks will only hurt those who have nowhere else to turn to.â€

Fighting for women’s rights

Meanwhile, the Joint Action Group for Gender Equality (JAG) said in a statement that Siti Zailah should educate herself on the long history of SIS’ work fighting to uphold the human rights of women.

The group urged the PAS lawmaker to speak with thousands of Muslim women on the ground, whose rights to gender equality and non-discrimination SIS has stridently fought for.

It also deemed Siti Zailah’s call for the government to act against SIS as “highly irresponsible in dismissing freedom of individuals and organisations to express their religious beliefs in diverse ways.â€

“JAG would like to urge Siti Zailah and the Parliamentary Select Committee on Rights and Gender Equality members to engage with civil society to be a part of the solution for the rakyat.

“Let’s practice a mature democracy and, together, roll our sleeves up to address the lived realities of communities on the ground and abandon political posturing,†its statement read.



Malaysia: Aug 20 fixed for court decision on fatwa declaring SIS ’deviant’

Monday 17 June 2019,


After a five-year wait since the case was first filed in court, the NGO Sisters in Islam (SIS) will find out on Aug 20 the outcome of its legal challenge against an religious authority’s edict declaring it as “deviant.â€

High Court judge Nordin Hassan in Kuala Lumpur fixed the date to deliver his decision after hearing submissions from lawyer Surendra Ananth representing SIS, and counsel for three respondents - the Selangor Fatwa Committee, Selangor Islamic Religious Council (MAIS) and the Selangor state government.

Justice Nordin also ordered all parties to make further submissions on their arguments on whether Section 66A of the Administration of the Religion of Islam (State of Selangor) Enactment 2003 applies to the case being heard.

When met later, Surendra said the hearing today follows a Federal Court decision last September for the case to be reverted to the High Court.

“I think we had a good chance to be heard earlier. It was a full hearing.

“Just to summarise it, our position is that the civil courts have jurisdiction because the issue is one that goes to the (Federal) Constitution and interpretation of federal and state laws,†he told reporters.

“The matter (being challenged) affects the fundamental rights of not just SIS Forum but also all persons professing the religion of Islam.

“And that’s something that only the civil courts can determine,†Surendra said.

On Nordin’s request for further submissions on Section 66A, which empowers the Syariah High Court to hear legal challenges against edicts issued by the Selangor Fatwa Committee, Surendra noted all the parties had, since 2016, agreed it was not applicable as it only took effect in May 2015, about seven months after the case was filed in October 2014.

“That (the submissions) must be done in two weeks from today.

“A decision has been fixed for Aug 20. So we will get a decision in full by then on that date,†he added.

During the hearing earlier, counsel for respondents in the case submitted that a fatwa, which they defined as a scholarly opinion on matters regarding Islam, cannot be challenged in a civil court.

The High Court also heard that a fatwa can be binding on an organisation, and not just individuals, contrary to the applicant’s submission.

’SIS confident justice will prevail’

Lawyer for MAIS Yusfarizal Yusof argued that since SIS carries the name of Islam in its name and its directors are all Muslims, the company cannot use its status to do anything allegedly against Islam.

The Selangor fatwa committee declared SIS “deviant†in 2014, owing to its liberal stand on certain issues, and this declaration was gazetted by the Selangor government in July that same year.

Following that, SIS had filed a judicial review application in October 2014 to declare that the fatwa was not legally binding on an organisation.

Also present was SIS executive director Rozana Isa and the group’s supporters.

“We are happy to finally have our day in court.

“SIS has full confidence that the Malaysian justice system will uphold the highest integrity and that justice will prevail for us,†Rozana said.