NGO: Continued labelling of SIS as 'deviant' makes them a target

  • Nation
  • Wednesday, 28 Aug 2019

PETALING JAYA: The continued labelling of Sisters in Islam's (SIS) as 'deviant' will only open space for more action to be taken against them by the state or even by misguided non-state actors, says Lawyers For Liberty (LFL).

LFL said this in a statement issued on Wednesday (Aug 28) following the Kuala Lumpur High Court's dismissal the day before of SIS' judicial review application against the fatwa by the Selangor Fatwa Committee that declared it deviant.

"SIS has been targeted by religious authorities despite its decades of human rights and advocacy work focusing on women’s rights in Islam," said LFL legal coordinator Zaid Malek.

"In addition, SIS has continuously championed hard issues such as ending child marriages, gender-based violence, female gender mutilation (FGM) and promoting gender equality and non-discrimination," Zaid said.

He added that legitimising the 2014 fatwa suggested that SIS' past work was against the teachings of Islam.

He said that LFL found the dismissal disturbing and urged Islamic Affairs Minister Datuk Mujahid Yusof Rawa to look into the matter.

In the statement, LFL said that the High Court decision not only declared that the civil court had no jurisdiction to hear challenges to the fatwa, but further ruled that SIS should not be immune from having the fatwa applied on it.

It added that LFL found the decision disturbing for a few reasons, the first being that the Federal Court has held that under Article 121(1) of the Federal Constitution, judicial power was vested exclusively in the civil High Courts and their jurisdiction and powers was not confined to Federal laws.

In the statement, LFL executive director Melissa Sasidaran said that according to the Federal Court, civil courts had the jurisdiction to hear all constitutional issues as Article 121 (1A) did not negate the jurisdiction of a civil court as soon as the subject matter touched on Islamic issues.

"The powers of judicial review and of constitutional interpretation are pivotal components of the civil courts' judicial power under Art 121 (1)," she said.

LFL said the Syariah court had no jurisdiction over SIS as it is a company, adding that the corporate veil could only be lifted in instances of fraud.

It added that the justification of fraud could not be used in this case and added that it has troubling ramifications on corporate entities in Malaysia.

LFL also called on the authorities to protect all human rights defenders and organisations to ensure that they could work in a safe, supportive environment that is free from attacks and unreasonable restrictions.

On Tuesday (Aug 27), the Kuala Lumpur High Court dismissed an application by SIS challenging the decision of the Selangor Fatwa Committee which declared it a deviant organisation that had strayed from the true teachings of Islam.

The court ruled that a fatwa was the exclusive jurisdiction of the Syariah Court.

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