31 October 2009

The articles are captured from the original writer, MsMarina (with her permission). SambalBelacan is just compiling articles to make easier to find. Any comments received will remain un-respond because it's not mine.Reach her at her very own blog at http://rantingsbymm.blogspot.com/ Please.
Wednesday October 28, 2009
Need for solidarity against injustice

All Malaysians should awaken to defend the rights of others to express themselves.

ONE of the features of democracy is the provision of space for all views to be expressed. This is to allow for healthy and open debate on any issue, with the hope that these interactions would lead to the wisest solution.

There are many of us here who hold firm to this belief, respect everyone’s right to have a view on any subject, and to express it publicly even when we do not agree with it. In return, we expect the same respect.

Apparently those are not the rules of the game here.

For some people, the rules are that only they be allowed to speak and anyone with a different opinion should just shut up. If the dissenters dare to say anything, then they should be hounded and intimidated until they acquiesce.

Today we have a women’s rights organisation that has had 50 police reports lodged against it by other organisations which do not agree with it. They claim these women must not only be not allowed to speak, but should be charged under the Sedition Act, have fatwas made against them and even be banned altogether.

There are even public forums being organised specifically to show that this women’s organisation is allegedly leading other women down the path to hell. You have to wonder what is so scary about this women’s organisation that it warrants all this hostile attention.

As far as most thinking people can tell, this women’s organisation has in the last 20 years been working to ensure that Malaysian women, specifically Muslim women, have access to the justice and equality that the Holy Quran says is their due.

What would be so scary about that? But if you believe its opponents, you would think that this organisation is plotting to turn this country into some Satanic state, where women rule and men are sidelined. God only knows where they got this idea.

What’s sad is that nobody has really stepped up to defend not just the right of this women’s organisation to express its views, but the right of anyone to do so in a supposedly democratic country.

Nobody seems to recognise that to file 50 police reports is nothing if not an act of intimidation geared to close the space for intelligent discussion and debate. What’s more, many of these police reports could really be considered defamatory.

It is a real mistake for anyone, whether it is the political leadership of this country or the ordinary person, to ignore this issue and think it is harmless. These police reports and forums are a concerted effort to ensure that only one viewpoint is given space.

More than that, it is a manifestation of an environment where those trying to ensure justice are intimidated and inhibited, and those trying to enhance all forms of discrimination, not just that against women, are given free rein – and even, due to the lack of comment on their behaviour, protected.

Tariq Ramadan, a prominent Islamic scholar, in his call for a moratorium on so-called Islamic punishment, quotes a hadith recorded by Al-Bukhari and Muslim, “Support your brother, whether he be unjust or victim of an injustice.”

One of the Companions asked: “Messenger of God, I understand how to support someone that is a victim of injustice, but how can I support him who is unjust?” The Prophet (Peace Be Upon Him) responded: “Prevent him from being unjust, that is your support to him.”

While Ramadan mostly calls on his Muslim brethren to defend their co-religionists from being unjust, I believe that his call is also relevant for those of other faiths who live in the same society.

As he points out, “Societies will never reform themselves by repressive measures and punishment, but more so by the engagement of each to establish civil society and the respect of popular will as well as a just legislation guaranteeing the equality of women and men, poor and rich before the law.

“It is urgent to set in motion a democratisation movement that moves populations from the obsession of what the law is sanctioning to the claim of what it should protect: their conscience, their integrity, their liberty and their rights.”

Meanwhile, what do neglect and silence achieve? That old warning about staying silent while various groups are hauled away until the day comes when there is no one left to defend us when it’s our turn, is one to heed.

Just because an issue seemingly affects only one community does not mean that the basic unjust principle of it cannot be applied to others. The imperative is greater when the group under attack is one that has relentlessly defended others’ right to freedom of expression.

Where is the solidarity against injustice?