How many events have you attended, where the highlight, was not the discussion, or the failure of the moderator to control the crowd, or the stupidity of the hecklers for being disruptive and rude, but someone’s middle finger gesture?
Human rights lawyer, Siti Kasim, went to a forum called “Pindaan Akta 355: Antara Realiti Dan Persepsi”, in Shah Alam. She tried to ask a question but was ignored, by the moderator. When she finally got her chance, she was heckled by people in the audience.
Siti is a no-nonsense person. She doesn’t suffer fools gladly. She may be loud, but she gets things done. She may appear abrasive, but she is for the right reasons. She defends the weak, and stands up to oppressors.
Remember the episode in KL, a few months ago, when religious officials stormed a hotel and caused havoc during a private event. It took a brave Siti to single-handedly lead the charge against religious officers, who were enraged because their authority had been challenged.
This was officialdom at its worst. The officers barked orders and demanded the arrests of various people. Did they realise that there are certain precedents they have to observe? No! This is Malaysia where people in uniform think they rule supreme.
At last week’s forum, we saw male superiority at its worst. An all male panel, in a largely male audience, addressing issues to do with hudud and syariah laws. Laws which affect Muslim women, in Malaysia, who probably make up around 50% of the Muslim population. The organisers did not have one woman on the panel, because the woman’s voice does not count.
The film producer, Norhayati Kaprawi, who was beside Siti, noted that when Siti wanted to ask questions, the moderator ignored her. The same happened to Norhayati.
If the truth be told, in many similar forums, few women, have the guts to pose a question, in front of a crowd of Malay men, like the ones who were present at the Shah Alam forum.
The moderator should have welcomed the chance for questions from women, but he didn’t. He wanted his panel to be free of difficult questions. He also wanted an easy forum to conduct.
Siti told Malay Mail, that the hecklers in the forum consisted of “Islamist hooligans” and “brainwashed morons”.
She is right. Ask a “normal” Malay woman and she will agree with Siti. The problem is that few Malay women will openly agree with her. They will only agree in the safety and privacy of their own friends.
Why? Has brainwashing stripped them of the will to oppose the official line? Are their men a more significant reason for their silence?
If anecdotal evidence is to be believed, husbands have been known to tell their wives that if they go against them, vote against the norm, or speak like an independently minded person, they will divorce them and get a younger wife.
The Malay husband’s reaction is one which is reflected in the Malay community. The majority of the Malays probably think, “You are either one of us, or you will be treated as the enemy. You will conform, or you will be excommunicated. If you do not agree, then you are wrong. There is no middle road. No compromise. No reasoning nor logic, especially when religion enters the affair.”
It is a difficult to be a Malay woman, in Malaysia. Few Malay men know the trials and tribulations which Malay women go through.
Perhaps, the few Malay men who know about unfairness and bigotry, are those who are homosexual. They are despised by the Malay community, for their sexuality, shunned and treated like scum, unless of course, they belong to the political élite. The non-Malays are all too familiar with discrimination.
Siti’s middle finger started a firestorm and set tongues wagging.
More importantly, will Malay society focus on the points she was trying to make, or remain focused on her finger?