On the Flogging of Muslim Women
March 5, 2010

We read the news about a police report being lodged against Sisters in Islam (SIS) by the Selangor Islamic Religious Council (MAIS) on the current controversy involving whipping of Muslim women under the Syari’ah laws with trepidation.

We would like to stress our stand that such an act by any Islamic bodies only paints a bleak picture about Islam as a religion that assents to healthy debates and differences in opinion. Such provocation to exhibit power and authority in trying to silence dissenting views from being debated in an open court is a clear manifestation of grandiose ideas that might is right. In a situation where the issue of whipping of Muslim women under Syari’ah law is still being debated by civil societies and Kartika case remains unresolved, it is very surprising that such punishment was being carried out surreptitiously.

It must be made loud and clear that the eternal message of Islam is justice and equality. The severity of Syari’ah punishment can be understood only if one bears in mind the fundamental principle of Islamic Law that no duty (taklif) is ever imposed on man without his being granted a corresponding right. And among the inalienable rights of every member of the Islamic society – Muslim and non-Muslim, man and woman alike – is the right to protection by the community as a whole.

Before subjecting any Muslims to the harsh penalties provided under the Islamic Law, it is the responsibility of the state to ensure that there is an equitable standard of living among its citizens commensurate with the resources at the disposal of the community, the enjoyment of social security and an environment conducive for intellectual and spiritual progress. Rather than trying to dignify Islam through the application of Syari’ah Laws, the state should instead focus on the real essence of Islamic spirit in ensuring social justice and equality in our society. Islamic Laws should not be read as mere texts but the underlying context must also be understood, including the socio-political context.

Hitherto, the Syari’ah penalties are almost never applicable in modern society where inequality is clearly abundant. It would have been a grave injustice when these penalties are seen to be applied almost exclusively to women and the poor, and never to the wealthy, the powerful or the oppressors. Syari’ah penalties therefore serve as a deterrent, with the objective to stir the conscience of the believer to the gravity of the action warranting such a punishment.

We, the Islamic Renaissance Front, hope that the relevant authorities and the powers that be, will not treat all voices that had criticized the imprudent execution of such laws as enemies of the faith and to immediately suspend further whipping of Muslim women. We call upon the authorities to establish space for dialogue and debate within our Muslim communities, between the ulama’, intellectuals, academicians and civil societies since this issue is not mainly about the texts, but equally the contexts.

Dr Ahmad Farouk Musa
Islamic Renaissance Front

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