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Tomboy-ism: Yes, minister. Let's meet

Persatuan Kesedaran Komuniti Selangor (Empower) is very much disturbed by the ruling made by the National Fatwa Council on Oct 23 which opined that females who dress and behave like males is forbidden in Islam.

On Nov 7, two groups protested against the fatwa . The outraged cries from some quarters about the protest highlights again how the Malaysian public is so willing to condone the use of violence to silence voices which are different from theirs.

Some even asked why the ISA was not used against these groups of protesters. These responses can most clearly be seen in the blogs.

We disagree that the fatwa affects only Muslim women. In the larger picture, an issue which infringes a person's rights is a matter of concern for all of us: Muslims, non-Muslims, men, women, the transgendered and the inter-sexed.

The right to self-determination, freedom of expression in the form of how we dress, speak and behave and our sexual rights are all in the bundle we call 'human rights'. Human rights are universal, inalienable, indivisible and inter-related.

In part, this is why Malaysia voices its concern about the situations in Burma and Palestine. We should speak up when we see developments which imperil the principle of justice.

To that end, we welcome and accept the offer from Minister in the Prime Minister's Department, Dr Ahmad Zahid Hamidi to organise a forum so that civil society and the National Fatwa Council may exchange views on certain issues.

Among the many areas of interest we may discuss are how does the council determine the issues on which to venture opinions; what is the consultation process with civil society prior to it arriving at an opinion; how do they reconcile differing opinions; and what is the process of amending or retracting an opinion previously rendered?

Finally, it is important for us to remember the preamble to the Rukun Negara which exhorts us to ensure a liberal approach to Malaysia's rich and diverse cultural traditions.

The writer is attached to Pusat Kesedaran Komuniti Selangor (Empower).