26 March 2015

Regardless of whether we can actually implement amputations, floggings and stoning, the mentality is already implanted.

A STAPLE of the news these days is the many barbaric acts of the group known as the Islamic State or IS in Syria.

Every day we are treated to news of their threats as well as actual acts of murder and mayhem against every person or group they don’t like.

They particularly specialise in the most gruesome ways of killing people, such as by beheading or burning them to death alive. And those are the lucky ones. Those left alive, especially women, are forced to endure the lifelong stigma of rape and abuse.

Over here, we widen our eyes in horror at such atrocities. Our officials are at pains to point out that these acts of barbarism are unIslamic and they have had significant success in arresting various people on their way to Syria to join IS.

Sermons are written to impress on us that we should not participate in this violence because of the very real fear that some people may get such a taste for it over there that they may want to do the same back home.

But we seem to be missing something here. Nobody needs to actually go to the Middle East in order to become barbaric.

Here at home we have moved one step closer to becoming very IS-like already. Regardless of whether we can actually implement any of these measures – amputations, floggings, stoning – the mentality is already implanted. All in the most official and “democratic” way too.

If anyone has the temerity to protest any of it, why, out come the daggers!

Thousands of fingers eagerly tap their keyboards to issue death or rape threats to anyone who has the courage to point out that the “laws” we want so much to implement should be the least of our priorities.

How can we have laws that require amputations for thieves when so many are in poverty? Why do we want to punish people in unQuranic ways?

If IS does not exist in physical form in our country, it sure exists in the heads and fingers of so many of our people.

Despite being followers of a religion that does not allow killing or any kind of injustice towards our fellow humankind, they think they are doing their “religious” duty by doing exactly the opposite. Baying like a pack of hounds for blood, the mob descends on anyone who speaks out, especially if they are female and Muslim.

To them, to think differently and to actually voice concerns is to de­­viate from the programme. We have to be like them, programmed to be obedient. And bloodthirsty.

If our authorities cannot see the connection between these acts of aggression towards those with different opinions and their futile attempts to stop people from joining IS, then they are either unintelligent or purposely blind. If IS is the nadir of a civilised society, then we are heading there, make no mistake.

Where are the voices to condemn IS? Instead we have so much illogical and ignorant thinking that one wonders if we should preserve those brains to be studied somewhere in the future when we hopefully regain our sanity.

One person says we should look to Nigeria for the “successful” implementation of hudud. I suppose that’s why Nigeria is such a successful country that their citizens are all over the world trying to make money.

Another person suggests that we must be on the right track because we are neither IS nor “liberal” so we must be nicely middling and moderate.

Sermons blare this warped definition of moderate every Friday. If you’re not with us, you’re either a liberal or an IS bandit. I would rather be a liberal who cares when people receive death threats than a “moderate” who keeps silent when citizens are faced with such violence. A truly moderate government protects its citizens from violence, rather than encouraging it by saying nothing.

I would like to ask our Prime Minister one question: are some of us Malaysians worth less to him than others? If so, may we know which ones and why? Should the “worthless” ones wear stars on their foreheads so that everyone knows who they are and can do what they want to them? If this differentiation is legal in the law, will our law enforcement officers stand by mute when something bad happens?

I fear for my country. We have so many good people in this land; kind, courteous and compassionate people. Unfortunately we have poor leaders, self-serving ones who care for nothing except for power, and who care for no one except themselves. I wonder how long before the mob realises that their so-called “heroes” don’t care about them either.

Meanwhile, all they’ve succeeded in doing is to divide people with hate. Lovely.

12 March 2015

We don’t want you to just love us, we also want you to respect us as equals.

ON International Women’s Day this year, some Afghan men did an extraordinary thing. They paraded in Kabul wearing the burqa to draw attention to the issue of women’s rights in their country, or rather the lack of women’s rights.

In most countries, events on International Women’s Day are mostly by women and for women. Rarely do men ever do something to show that they too are concerned about the violation of women’s rights.

When men do, they are often ham-fisted about it. Last year, I was on a panel with two other prominent women, talking about issues affecting women at work, when an earnest young man stood up to ask how a wife can support her husband in his work.

This was a fine example of male tone deafness and the inability to understand the milieu he was in and therefore the clanging awkwardness of that question. I have also been at women’s forums where men get up to declare how much they love women and manage to sound condescending and creepy at the same time. We don’t want you to just love us, we also want you to respect us as equals.

Men can also be blindsided by the dazzle of a few women. When there is an outstanding woman whom men respect, they tend to think that these women are exceptions. To them, it is not normal for women to be so good at what they think of as men’s jobs, so these women are not the rule but the exceptions that prove it.

I have seen men become totally dumbfounded when asked to name expert women in a particular field apart from the one they see in the papers all the time. They assume that no others exist. A little research, with the assistance of their female assistants, would have unearthed many.

In some cases, men think they are doing women a favour by “defending” them in very masculine ways. In India, a mob attacked a jail where a suspected rapist was being held, stripped him naked and then beat him to death.

What difference does this actually make to the female victim, who would still be shunned by society, and to other women who still face the same dangers every day? This murderous act was done more to avenge the honour of the men to whom the woman “belonged”, rather than in defence of the woman herself.

And interestingly enough, when I posted an article about the Delhi rapist blaming his victim for her own death, among the many violent reactions from men was one calling him a derogatory female epithet. The highest insult to a man is to call him a woman because we are still lesser beings.

In our own country, we can hardly find any man who would stand up publicly in support of women’s rights. Instead we have men who can find a myriad of justifications why women get raped, beaten, summarily divorced, denied positions of leadership and so on.

When women call them out on it, they retreat and then deny what they said or wrote. But how many men, from the same community, told him off? Did their silence mean they agreed with him?

There are many men out there who do not believe that women deserve to have such horrific treatment meted out on them. These men are well aware that women gave birth to them and cared for them until adulthood and that they have sisters and wives whom they would never wish such violence on.

But at the same time they are cowed by the culture of macho-ness where to talk about women’s rights is to be a traitor to their sex. Where sometimes even their own sexuality can become suspect, just because they defend women. That such a culture can be also oppressive to them is something they are oblivious to. Why should any man be vilified just for being a decent human being?

When we teach young boys that violence towards those they perceive as weaker than them is all right, then we should also prepare them to live in a world where there will be nothing except violence all the time.

They will have to spend their time always having to fight either someone weaker or someone stronger than them. Why would we want to subject our sons to this? Won’t they ever get sick of it?

Gender inequality may seem like fair sport to some but studies have proven that it does nothing except drag a whole society down to its most primitive levels. Gender equality, exemplified by less violence against women, benefits both sexes and allows a country to progress.

Perhaps we should ask the misogynists whether what they really want is a society with only men?