Muslims will rebel if you keep trying to control them, Ambiga warns Islamic authorities

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SHAFAQNA - Malaysia’s Islamic authorities will face a rebellion if they keep trying to regulate the lives of Muslims, Datuk Ambiga Sreenevasan has cautioned.

The former Malaysian Bar president said the biggest problem with the institutionalisation of religion in the country was the creation and enforcement of Islamic regulations and fatwa (religious edicts) without going through Parliament or debate.

“How much do you want to regulate the lives of the people, the way they dress, the way they stand, the way they sit, how far are you going to do this?” Ambiga told Malay Mail Online in a recent interview.

“I think you need to realise ― it’s like parents bringing up children, you say no all the time to everything we do, what is it going to create? It’s going to create rebellion, internal rebellion,” added the president of the National Human Rights Society (Hakam).

Datuk Seri Jamil Khir Baharom, minister in charge of Islamic affairs, told Parliament recently that Putrajaya will carry out an in-depth study on Islamic compliance for clothing used for sports and other fields, following criticism over the leotard worn by artistic gymnast Farah Ann Abdul Hadi, who had won a gold medal in floor exercise at the SEA Games.

The Malaysian Islamic Religious Development Department (Jakim) also recently issued guidelines on concerts, including imposing gender segregation and prohibiting “excessive laughter” at stage performances, but said later in April following public uproar that its entertainment guidelines were not compulsory.

Ambiga urged Islamic authorities to be more progressive.

“They need to look at globalisation, they need to appreciate we’re living in a different climate, they need to appreciate that the people have enough stresses and strains in their lives, just going about earning a living,” the human rights activist said.

“We must look forward to an age where we’re really pushing for excellence, our education system is top class, so we can compete in this world. You’re now tying the hands of the people, I’m talking about all these legislations, because you’re controlling their minds, controlling their thought or trying to. So how are you empowering your people to compete outside?” she added.

Ambiga blamed the government for allowing things to come to a stage where several Muslim Facebook users had hit out at Farah Ann’s attire, accusing the athlete of exposing her “aurat” and the “shape of her vagina”.

“They’ve allowed all these powers to dictate how everybody has to behave, how national sports should be, how you should dress for national and international sports, does that mean you withdraw from these events?” the lawyer questioned.

“The youth, you can’t treat them like this anymore. they’re going to question you. And I suppose we have to allow the process to take place; I’m just worried we’re too used to this creeping extremism and it’s going to strangle us one of these days without us realising it,” she added.

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