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Monday, June 26, 2017

This is not about religion, this is about intimidation

The Dr Jekyll and Mrs Hyde character lives in some of us. Sometimes, the worst arrogance is shown by a woman in uniform. She is transformed. She becomes doubly arrogant, treats others with disrespect, and humiliates them, for good measure.
Take the uniform away, or isolate that person from her peers, and she is a different person. The uniform and the herd mentality are responsible for the bad behaviour in some people. They hate it when someone stands up to them.
Egged on by their peers, emboldened by their uniform and badge, they will use every trick in the book, bend the law if necessary, to control you; but when they are on their own, or when you take their uniform from them, they become timid, like mice.
You need only look at the video clip of human rights lawyer, Siti Kassim, which went viral, in April last year, to see the arrogance of our religious officials. If she, a respected lawyer, was treated with contempt, you begin to wonder about the treatment meted out to people who are lower down in the social pecking order.
Siti had been invited to a closed-door, fundraising charity dinner and show, hosted by the transgender community, in April 2016. All had gone swimmingly well, when the dinner was raided by Federal Territories Islamic Department (Jawi), who wrongfully claimed that a "Miss World Beauty Pageant" was in progress.
Why was the media present, if not to humiliate the people at the dinner? Where were the police? Why was the raid being filmed? These are some of the questions the general public posed last year, when they saw the vicious nature of the video clip which had been uploaded on YouTube with a suitably nasty title, "Pondan maki Jawi" (LGBT shouts abuse at Jawi) and other versions of the clip, like "Lawyer shouting abuse at uniformed Jawi official".
The band of Jawi officials and media hovering at the back of the hall were making the guests uncomfortable. So they started to leave.
The LGBT community, who have eyes on the backs of their heads, sensed that the pandemonium was just beginning. When you live in fear, not because you have done anything wrong, but because society judges you by their warped sense of values, you learn to live by your gut instincts. The LGBT were right.
Jawi had blocked off the exits so that the organisers and guests were virtual prisoners. Things turned nasty when Siti stood her ground and repeatedly asked for Jawi's arrest warrant. "Tugas saya sebagai peguam, awak ada waran ke? (In discharging my duties as a lawyer, have you a warrant?")
The Jawi official whom Siti addressed, was clearly unimpressed with her. The officer must have thought, this Malay woman, who looked different from her, had a bit more backbone than the ordinary Malay woman, and did not quietly back off, or acquiesce to an official Jawi demand, needed to be taught a lesson.
The Jawi officer stretched up to her full 4 feet 10 inches and started jabbing her fingers into Siti's face, "Listen to me..." she demanded... to which an unfazed Siti, repeated, "No, you listen to me," and repeated her request for the arrest warrant. A male Jawi officer, with one hand firmly on his hips, was equally arrogant to Siti.
Siti had by this time called the police because the religious police have no powers of arrest. They too were clueless about the raid and the next course of action.
Siti and the show's host were bundled into a Jawi van, and when the female Jawi official started to push Siti around, she was warned that if she did that again, she would be sued.
This enraged the Jawi woman, who then threatened to handcuff Siti. Calling her bluff, Siti pushed her hands towards the officer, who backed off. She was aware that Jawi has no power to arrest Siti. Clearly, their actions were illegal.
So, why were Siti and the host of the event, hauled to the Dang Wangi police station? Why did one other Jawi official claim earlier, that Siti was under arrest? Why the change of tune?
One of the guests was held overnight, at Jawi. She was prevented from making a police report against Jawi. Why?
On 23 June, Siti was charged with obstructing a Jawi official during the event in April 2016. We know that Jawi acted unlawfully.
What happened to Siti, is not just about a society which is intolerant. It is about control of the rakyat by a handful of people, who use religion to manipulate our behaviour. The constitution is our guide, but these officials have no respect for it.
If you care about your society and the increasing harassment of ordinary people by the religious officials, please support and stand behind Siti Kassim.
Do not forget to vote in GE14.
Selamat Hari Raya, maaf zahir dan batin.

MARIAM MOKHTAR is a defender of the truth, the admiral-general of the Green Bean Army and president of the Perak Liberation Organisation (PLO). BlogTwitter.- Mkini

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