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Month: December 2016

Why TransMalaya’s bus segregation has little to do with protecting women

Long-haul bus operator TransMalaya Ekspres has been practising gender segregation in its buses since February 2015 before it was featured by Berita Harian yesterday, and subsequently Malay Mail Online by following up with Noorlini Ramli, the owner and co-founder of KRZ Management Sdn Bhd that manages the fleet.

The revelation was met with outrage over the spill of moral policing into the transport industry that would also affect non-Muslims, reminiscent of segregated check-out lines in Kelantan.

The outrage however was mocked by among others Islamist group Ikatan Muslimin Malaysia (Isma), who claimed it contradicts liberals and feminists’ goal of protecting women. It also became the subject of a webcomic by VulpineNinja (which itself does not reflect the exact facts of the case).

Supporters of the policy lambasted critics, believing that it protects women from sexual harassment, which was backed by Noorlini’s claim:

“The point of this is to give an advantage to our female passengers because we have heard and read reports of how female travellers get molested by strangers, so we took this effort to give them a greater sense of security and comfort.

“This is for both Muslim and non-Muslim. We simply want to avoid any untoward incidents.”

Is it, though? While there is undeniable intent that the policy is meant to ensure women’s safety, it reeks much more of moral policing.

Why Muslims are more educated than their peers

Published in Malay Mail Online

A recent Pew Research Center study showed that in Malaysia, Muslims on average are more educated than adherents of other religions, that is they have more formal schooling compared to others.

It had measured the level of education of three cohorts: the “oldest” (born 1936-1955), “middle” (born 1956-1975) and “youngest” (born 1976-1985).

Pew found that in the country, Muslims receive an average of 10.2 years of formal schooling followed by Buddhists (9.8 years), Hindus (9.7), Christians (9), and those unaffiliated to the four religion groups (8.2).

The average period of schooling in Malaysia is 9.9 years, below the required six years of primary education added with five of secondary.

The study caught the attention of non-Muslims and non-religious in the country who felt slighted and had a hard time accepting the fact. It is as if their deep-rooted racism and prejudice made them believe that the Muslims are bound to be uneducated, backwards, and perhaps stupid.

But few of them asked the right questions.

Sympathy for the Dajjal

Published in Malay Mail Online

One of my guilty pleasures these days is a TV show called Lucifer, which strange as it may sound is just a crime procedural show — but with the titular fallen angel as its lead.

The series itself is based of a graphic novel series by the same name, a spin-off of the seminal “Sandman” graphic novels by Neil Gaiman.

In both the TV show and comic, Lucifer is shown as a suave, charming gentleman who now runs a nightclub called Lux, after he abandoned Hell and his lordship over it. After millennia, Lucifer has grown tired and bored with his reign, and felt that he was forced to rule just because he had rebelled against God.

And in both, Lucifer detests the stereotypes and prejudices that humans have projected upon him: that the Devil was the one who forced mortals to commit evil and sin. After all, is it not convenient to blame somebody else for all your failings and weakness?

While the Devil often gets the blame, in certain Muslim cultures, another figure also regularly gets the blame for every single conspiracy theory and malady afflicting the community: the Dajjal.

Holding human rights to ransom

Published in Malay Mail Online

As I turned one year older on Human Rights Day yesterday, I contemplated the human rights situation in this country.

Malaysia was cited for “grave violations” of the rights and treatment of the non-religious in the annual Freedom of Thought Report by International Humanist and Ethical Union (IHEU) — a worldwide umbrella of humanist, atheist, secular and similar organisations .

With a score of 4.5 out of the worst score of 5, Malaysia joins Muslim-majority neighbours Indonesia and Brunei as the worst offenders in the region — especially with the existence of Shariah laws that heavily punish apostasy, even with death, although the penalty cannot be enforced yet.

In the category of “family, community, society, religious courts and tribunals”, IHEU noted that there exists “systemic religious privilege results in significant social discrimination” and “religious control over family law or legislation on moral matters.”

An example of the instance where religious control and privilege benefit Muslims disproportionately is when it comes to divorce and unilateral conversion of a child; when one parent decides to convert into Islam when he/she has already entered into a civil marriage.

Rohingyas and the realities of nation-states

Published in Malay Mail Online

This morning, thousands of Malaysian Muslims are expected to converge on the Titiwangsa Stadium in the country’s capital to show their dissatisfaction and anger towards Myanmar for its atrocious treatment of the Rohingya minority.

The anger undoubtedly has its roots in the fact that the Rohingyas are Muslims rather than their proximity in South-east Asia — not to mention that the group is being persecuted by militant Buddhists, which must have been a welcome change from the widespread image of militant Muslims.

Despite that, their opposition is valid. Violence against the Rohingyas has recently flared up in the Rakhine state of Myanmar, with security forces attacking under the pretext of rooting out so-called radicalised Rohingya jihadists linked to overseas militants.

Up to 30,000 of the ethnic group have fled the strife-torn area, and Human Rights Watch has since released satellite images claiming that hundreds of buildings in three Rohingya villages have been torched.

And yet, the Myanmar government led by internationally acclaimed de facto head Aung San Suu Kyi has remained unmoved by the fate of the ethnic group that it officially refuses to recognise as anything but Bangladeshi illegal immigrants.

Therein lies one of the biggest challenges facing modern nation-states.