12:56pm 27/04/2022
Maria has every right to voice the concerns of her electorate
By:Mariam Mokhtar

The Federal Territory Syariah High Court’s decision to sentence the Petaling Jaya Member of Parliament Maria Chin Abdullah to seven days jail, appears excessively harsh.

Is she a danger to the public? A flight risk? Or a threat to national security? The 7-day prison sentence is petty and vindictive. It should be reversed.

Some people will claim that her folly in September 2019 will have been to pass comments on an ongoing high profile divorce case.

The husband involved had probably taken umbrage at Maria’s comments, thus initiated legal proceedings against the MP with the claim she had insulted the syariah court.

So, was Maria taking a personal interest in that particular case and targeting this couple? Nothing could be further from the truth!

Maria would have had the presence of mind not to make personal comments or judgments, but many easily forget that she is an MP and would have met hundreds, if not thousands of women who would have visited her in her constituency clinic for help.

They would have sought her advice as their MP. Some of them, both men and women, will have shared their own legal, emotional and personal problems.

Many of her constituents, especially the women, will have looked upon Maria not just as an MP but also her experience as a mother and wife.

So, it will not be unusual for Maria to have been privy to the personal angst that her constituents will have experienced, especially in matters which involve the syariah court.

They will have shared their feelings of being involved in legal issues like separation, death, divorce, marriage, child custody, inheritance, domestic violence and a host of community problems of schooling, public services, and personal security like crime.

Maria may not have the legal experience to advise them, but the main thing is that she will have taken note of the issues that trouble them.

This may have been the basis for her comments made in 2019.

From her interaction and engagement with her constituents, she knows that Muslim women are being discriminated against under the syariah legal system.

Maria was not making up stories. Therefore, the claim that she had insulted the syariah court is both erroneous and irresponsible.

She was not attacking the syariah court but merely highlighting what most of her constituents would have felt.

She could have made these remarks in parliament and it is possible that she may have done so by now.

Those who know Maria will be aware that she is a firm believer in women’s rights and equality. She believes in justice and fair play.

She is not a loud-mouthed person, a braggart, or one who abuses her position. As a woman, she has an acute understanding of some of the issues which her constituents will have experienced.

If these touched on the syariah law system, then as their MP Maria has every right to highlight them. She was not being rude or insensitive or critical. She was merely being matter-of-fact.

As MP, Maria is performing her role admirably. She cannot help it if some people were to feel slighted by her remarks.

Why would some people think that she was making disparaging remarks about them? She wasn’t. Nor was she making personal remarks.

What made some people think that she was criticizing Islam? She was not. She was relaying what her constituents felt.

She had criticized the syariah system and the process of syariah law, which is after all managed by humans.

She was seeking a reform of the syariah legal process, but others have apparently closed themselves to the idea.

The decision to jail Maria is just another attempt at intimidating a woman. This only serves to prove that the syariah system is discriminatory.

The court has been highly embarrassed by Maria’s allegations which many Malay women accept to be true, because the majority of them failed to get justice under syariah law.

Some of the discriminatory issues that Maria will have heard from her constituency will have been about inheritance under syariah, where the menfolk are favored. The statement of witnesses, or the women’s testimony, is worth only half of the men’s.

A woman cannot easily get divorced, and may have to wait for months, unlike the men.

Property that is under the wife’s name can be transferred to the husband’s name by authority of the syariah court.

A woman who is raped can be charged with committing adultery and be fined, jailed and whipped.

A husband who does not pay alimony and child maintenance is hardly pursued to fulfill his obligations.

Jailing Maria will be seen as another attempt by the menfolk to curb freedom of expression and prevent further criticism of the syariah legal system.

Maria dared to speak up because she strongly believed she was voicing out the concerns of her electorate.

Many Malays, both men and women, who believe in a fair and just system will also demand an end to discrimination of women under syariah law.

The fact that Maria’s punishment is so severe for what minuscule thing she said just goes to show that the Federal Territory’s Syariah High Court knows she’s right and is trying to scare her, and others, from pointing out the truth.

So, what can we learn from this case and others similar?

If you want to get rid of someone, simply accuse him or her of insulting the syariah Court!


Malaysiakini: Syariah court finds Maria Chin in contempt, imposes 7-day jail


Mariam Mokhtar
Maria Chin Abdullah
syariah court


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