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Tuesday, May 02, 2006

A Dimwit View of the World and its Women Inhabitants

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This post comes several days later than it should, and thanks to Mack Zulkifli's reminder, I'm finally getting around to doing it.

Note: Some of what's posted here was originally posted as comments to Mack's post a few days back, so if you're a Brand New Malaysian reader, it may be somewhat of an ulang-tayang (lit. Malay - meaning 're-run').

Taken from Michele Miller's WonderBranding blog

There is a Member of Parliament (MP), representing Rantau Panjang, Kelantan. Politically, his affiliation is with PAS (Pan Malaysian Islamic Party), whose English acronym, spelled backwards, is PIMP.

But that's beside the point. For all I care, it might as well be PRICK - because that's exactly how this particular MP behaved in Parliament last week (to be exact, on Wednesday, April 26th).

His name is Abdul Fatah Harun, and this is the furor that he created in Parliament (taken from a New Straits Times report). The juicy bits are highlighted in this color:

At the Dewan Rakyat yesterday: 'Gatal' remark riles women MPs
27 Apr 2006
Reports by M.K. Megan, Azura Abas and Ranjeetha Pakiam (NST online - April 27, 2006)

A PAS MP got the Dewan Rakyat, especially the women MPs, all riled up when he accused divorced women of being "gatal" (promiscuous).

In one voice, the women MPs protested and demanded that he retract the derogatory remark. They were joined by several men.

The target of their ire was Abdul Fatah Harun (Pas-Rantau Panjang) who said divorcees were "gatal" and this was the main reason for the large number of failed marriages.

"We must analyse whether the problems resulting in divorces were caused by men or women," he said.

"Divorcees are easily spotted at functions through their ‘gatal’ behaviour.

"It is as if they have no regrets over their divorce. Widows do not behave in such a flirtatious manner. They are sad and quiet."

Fatah said this when Women, Family and Community Development Minister Datuk Seri Shahrizat Abdul Jalil was winding up the debate on the Ninth Malaysia Plan.

Hearing Fatah’s remarks, Shahrizat shot back: "My God. I am ashamed of what we have just heard. I order him to retract what he said."

Fatah stood up and said his remarks did not apply to all divorcees.

"I would say a large number of them. From the way they behave at functions we know that the women, not their husbands, are to blame for the divorces."

Shahrizat said only those who were shallow in their religious knowledge could have such thoughts.

"I don’t know if he is talking from his own experience. I am surprised... Where did you meet these kind of women? I know the BN MPs respect women," she said.

She reminded the House of a Malay saying that "heaven is at the feet of a woman".

Tan Lian Hoe (BN-Bukit Gantang) said it was inappropriate for an MP to accuse divorced women of being "gatal".

"You have to retract what you have said," she said, adding that men were also responsible for divorces.

"Come on... be a gentleman... retract what you have said. Your remarks paint a wrong picture of divorced women. We have to correct this misperception in the House."

DAP MP for Bukit Mertajam, Chong Eng, was also offended.

When more women MPs joined in and demanded that Fatah retract his statement, Deputy Speaker Datuk Lim Si Cheng ordered all to sit and asked Shahrizat to continue with her speech.

But Shahrizat refused, saying she wanted to deal with the issue.

She said she had always defended Malaysian men whenever she travelled abroad.

"I think I will have to retract that. I have to say that men from Pas are not that great after all."

Lim Bee Kau (BN-Padang Serai) joined in the fray: "We women collectively protest."

Datuk Idris Haron (BN-Tangga Batu), Datuk Zaid Ibrahim (BN-Kota Baru) and Datuk Abdul Ghapur Salleh (BN-Kalabakan) supported Shahrizat.

Idris said Fatah had made a sweeping statement. "We should not forget our mothers are also women. We should avoid such statements. Divorce cases are rampant. There are many reasons for divorce and we cannot attribute it to the promiscuous behaviour of women alone," he said.

Ghapur said "gatal" was a rude word to be used in the House and should be retracted.

Zaid said Fatah must have attended many parties to have noticed the divorcees’ "promiscuous" behaviour.

"The word (gatal) should not be allowed in the House. Otherwise, we are setting a dangerous precedent."

There was also a suggestion to postpone the winding-up speeches to discuss the issue, but this was rejected by the Deputy Speaker.

Fatah finally withdrew the word "gatal" from his remarks, but stood by his accusation.

Now, to be fair, PAS did later issue a few statements chastising Fatah's remarks in Parliament. But, really, wouldn't any political party do a similar damage-control exercise?

The problem that I have with PAS in general, and even some in BN, (as do many others, I'm sure) is the attitude exhibited by some of its members, particularly when it comes to how women in society are viewed. And as always, they claim that their views are from the "Islamic perspective".

I realize that one person does not represent the opinions of an entire group. But it's the arogance and sheer stupidity-in-sheeps-clothing that I simply cannot stand. After all, he stands by what he said, minus the "gatal" reference. Stands by "his facts", in his own words.

This attitude can be generalized as, the "blame women for the wrongs in society" point of view. Or, as I would put it, skewed perspective driven dimwittery. In this particular case, the implicit point being made by Fatah is that many failed marriages are likely the fault of the women.

Like Bigfoot, the source for Fatah's facts remains a mystery. One clue, however, is his observation that "divorcees are easily spotted at functions through their 'gatal' behavior". Interesting hypothesis. Of course, what type of functions, where, when, and details of his scientific G-scale are not immediately know.

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Never mind that in many cases, it's the man that leaves the wife and brood behind for "greener pastures", either divorcing her, or leaving her in limbo (since, of course, it's his perceived right to have four concurrent wives), refusing to grant her a divorce.

Never mind that in a lot of cases, the "poor" man gets away scott-free from the obligation to pay alimony. Scot-free because the various state religious departments rarely go after the alimony man, for reasons they and God alone know. Sure, they get subpoenaed to the Syariah court - and some even bother to show up - but the alimony still goes AWOL.

What Fatah said was both irresponsible and slanderous. The fact that he "stands by" what he said (as he only retracted the "gatal" reference), is in itself telling of his attitude towards women, which to me is not an Islamic view, but is of the Arabism ideals that he (and I think many in PAS) is so bent on emulating.

When Islam was revealed, through the Quran, it set a ground-breaking FRAMEWORK for gender equality, taking into account the attitude of the time. Ground-breaking FOR ITS TIME. After the death of the Prophet Muhammad (pbuh), many unfortunately reverted back to the cultural placement of the status of women in society.

The word FRAMEWORK has been emphasized for a reason - in my own view, the basis for gender equality was set forth in the Quran as a general framework, and it is the responsibility of Muslims to work within this FRAMEWORK, and adapt them to the realities of time and place.

Many Muslims today, unfortunately, take the notion of "religion for all time" to mean going retro and making it such that society must adopt Arab norms as they were a millenium ago. This literalism is practiced and exhibited by many of its followers, and is among the reasons, I think, that makes Islam a sometimes reviled religion.

This is the skewed perspective from which Fatah's slander comes from, as exhibited in parliament last week. And unless I'm proven wrong, is also how I think PAS views what Islam should be. PAS and anyone whose purpose in life is to turn Malaysia into a puritanical state, based on a rigid, literalist, and anachronist Islam.

In my personal view, the Quran was revealed in Arabic because Arabic was a living language then and God, in His infinite wisdom, knew that it would be a living language today. The original revealed word would survive, without the risk of corruption through translation (albeit unintentionally).

However, many Muslims see this (the Arabic factor) instead as a justification for the necessity to become Arabs and adopt the Arabic culture in toto - the good, the bad, and the ugly. This is the literalism that has led to Fatah saying what he did, shaped from his rigid view of Islam.

Perhaps this incident is yet another reason why we should have live Parliament broadcasts. It would make our MP's behave more intelligently in session. But then again, since intelligence is not a pre-requisite for entering into the political arena... who knows? At the very least, there will be some quality entertainment on terrestial TV, for a change.