Marina Mahathir likening Muslim women in Malaysia to black South Africans under apartheid as second-class citizens held back by discriminatory rules is completely ignorant of the reality on the ground and the Islamic Family Law (IFL) amendments.
An accurate and complete understanding of the IFL requires much more serious scrutiny than many are seemingly willing to give. Any study of the IFL must reference the primary sources of Islamic jurisprudence namely the Quran, the Hadiths (the authenticated traditions of His prophet), Ijma (consensus of the Muslim scholars) and Qiyas (analogies). It is completely unacceptable that views on any matter related to Islam be represented by anyone applying only their human opinions and benchmarks.
Mainstream Muslim NGOs upon substantiative research of the IFL Bill, have concluded that it does not violate the principles of the syariah laws. The Muslim Professionals Forum (MPF) led a delegation of Muslim NGOs to meet the minister for women, family and development on Feb 13 where we reaffirmed our support for her firmness in dealing with the controversies plaguing the IFL bill. We nonetheless pointed out a few "grey areas" in the bill which ought to be improved to ensure that no provisions could be interpreted or misconstrued as being discriminatory to women.
Truth, justice and equality has nothing to do with gender attributes. We must rise above the narrow sexism/feminism dialectics by embracing a theology in which the divine is truly gender neutral. It gifts humanity with a legal code and family norms which are rooted in the understanding that, the sexes are not equal but different, and will naturally gravitate towards roles which affirm rather than suppress their respective genius.
Muslim women in Malaysia are perfectly comfortable reconciling the injunctions of the syariah with modern life. We continue to play a prominent role in public life as high-ranking civil servants, in academia, in the corporate world, even in politics, something that our sisters in more "progressive Muslim" Morocco and Tunisia - that, among others, outlaw polygamy, ban the hijab and sanction social abortions - can only look on with envy.
We would like to reiterate our previous position, shared by other NGOs with popular mainstream support, that after a careful study the IFL is syariah compliant. The government's intention of bringing the Federal Territory's Islamic Family Law Act in line with that of other states is a positive move towards streamlining of this law in Malaysia, is deserving of support of Muslims and should be commended.
The writers are founding members of the Muslim Professionals Forum.