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Tuesday, October 15, 2019

Survey reveals Malaysian Muslim women’s conservatism

(From left) Head of the European Union delegation to Malaysia Maria Fernandez Castillo, social activist Marina Mahathir and SIS executive director Rozana Isa at the launch of the survey on Muslim women in Malaysia.
KUALA LUMPUR: A survey by women’s group Sisters In Islam (SIS) shows that conservative beliefs are still prevalent among Muslim women in the country although there has been some progress in terms of demanding better equality.
The survey, titled “Perceptions and Realities: The Public and Personal Rights of Muslims in Malaysia”, revealed that 97% of women agreed that they must obey their husbands and that a woman’s obedience defines her as a “good wife”.
“This uncompromising duty to obey one’s husband has led to many situations where wives have not taken into consideration harm or injustices that may be committed to them,” SIS said.
About 21% of the 675 respondents believed that a husband can strike his spouse, citing the concept of “nusyuz”, or refusing to obey a husband’s wishes or commands.
And this included leaving the house without his consent or refusing him sex.
SIS, however, said that hitting the wife goes directly against the principles of the Quran, noting that Prophet Muhammad “never hit his wife under any circumstances”.
Meanwhile, about 70% of the respondents accept that a husband has the right to practise polygamy, but only if he can treat all the wives fairly.
However, only 32% of those surveyed would allow their husbands to take another wife.
About 92% however agree that a woman has the right to seek divorce under any circumstances.
On wearing the hijab, 90% of the respondents felt that donning the headscarf is mandatory for Muslim women, although 62% also believed that it was acceptable for Muslim women not to wear a hijab.
The survey also found there was a “pervasive need” to project an image of a “proper Muslim woman”, in behaviour and dressing, to avoid negative perceptions that others may have.
The need to conform to accepted norms and social expectations is still dominant, with 80% agreeing that they face challenges related to social conformity.
“And 59% experienced moral policing and public shaming,” the report noted.
SIS said the survey shows that greater effort will be required if Muslim women are to be brought to the same level as Muslim men.
The survey, conducted between 2018 and 2019 by research firm Ipsos, interviewed women aged between 18 and 55. It was carried out in two phases.
Meanwhile, social activist Marina Mahathir said one of the biggest takeaways from the survey is the disconnect between what Muslim women expect and what happens in real life.
“There is also their inability to challenge the realities of life, like expecting husbands to share household duties. It’s not happening, but they are unable to make them (husbands) take on 50% of the household burden,” Marina, who is a SIS member, said.
She was speaking to reporters after attending a conference titled “International Conference on Islam Unsurrendered: Women rising Against Extremism”, which saw the launch of the survey.
Women, she said, were forced to live with this as there is a belief that things cannot change.
On a related note, Marina observed that many things that were once considered extreme were now considered mainstream.
This included wearing the hijab and donning the niqab as well as polygamy, which is seen as a measure of success for men.
Marina said that the community is shifting “right-wards” in terms of interpreting the religion.
“When religion is politicised, people are afraid to challenge it and therefore anything that does not get challenged becomes normalised,” she said, adding those who challenged such concepts are labelled as deviant. - FMT

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