15 October, 2018

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Muslim Female LG Candidates Face Brunt Of Communal Clerical Misogyny

By Ruwan Laknath Jayakody

Ruwan Jayakody

  • The Face of Muslim Terror / The Cult of Maulavi Niyas Siddeeq Siraj et al
  • “Even in or as groups, only a few contestants are left now to go out for canvassing,” –  SLMC Puttalam District LG Candidate/SLMC Puttalam District Women’s Congress Coordinator Bisliya Bhutto

Misogyny is a most potent prejudice, a heady brew of fragile egos and colossal insecurities, delusions of power and wounded machismo, inflated narcissism and unrepentant ignorance, with the fear of female sexuality acting as the piston jackhammering the molten core of the nucleus of social order – the rubric of the family; the effects of which are akin to a Molotov cocktail. The concept of possessing the autonomy to articulate one’s existence as being one that all human beings including females are born with seems alien to a group of Muslims, specifically three Lankan citizens claiming to be religious leaders representing the Islamic clergy.

The Victims and the Culprits

Take for an example, Maulavi/Mullah Niyas Siddeeq Siraj, against whom the Women’s Action Network, acting on behalf of female Local Government (LG) candidates contesting from the Puttalam District on the Sri Lanka Muslim Congress (SLMC) ticket, namely Cader Ibrahim Rinoosa, S. Rasika Udayangani (Tamil) and Bisliya Bhutto (also the Coordinator of the SLMC’s Puttalam District Women’s Congress), has complained in writing to the Election Commission (EC) on 18 January, 2018. As is most often the case, the herded follow the herd and so the beta males follow the alpha’s twisted trail and appetite for dominance and subjugation. In the wake of Niyas’s public utterings, two acolytes of Muhammad, eddying the effluvial terrain of the Quran and the Hadith, one going by the name of Abbasi (based in Puttalam) and another by the name of Abdul Jabbar Mohamed Azeem, have echoed and reiterated sentiments similar to those of Niyas. The latter is reported to belong to the Sri Lanka Thowheedh Jamath/Jama’ath (SLTJ), specifically the Jamiuth Thowheedh Thihari (the latter standing for Thihariya). He is also reported to run a madrasa (educational institution) and a media unit called the TMC, both located in Thihariya.

The Incidents and an Analysis of the Applicable Legal Regime

Niyas in sermons delivered on or about 5 January this year, from the Jamiuth Thowheedh mosque in Thihariya, video clips of which are circulating online on social media, has expressed disgust at females contesting at the LG Elections around the corner, claimed that the women in question are sinners and of loose morals, ridiculed and shamed the males in the candidates’ families for allowing them to contest and also the political parties for accommodating Muslim women, and issued a clarion call to the society, specifically to the Muslim community, to correct (as the butler in Stanley Kubrick’s The Shining would put it) the women candidates.

The second republican Constitution of Sri Lanka of 1978 provides answers to the question of females contesting at polls. Article 12(1) of the Constitution guarantees the right to equality and provides equal protection of the law while Article 12(2) of the Constitution further provides for the freedom from discrimination on the basis of race, religion, sex and political opinion, among other such grounds. Simply put, if men are allowed, so too should women be allowed.

Article 14(1)(g) of the Constitution allows for one to engage on one’s own or in association with others, in any lawful occupation  and seeking to be an elected representative of the people comes well within this category.

Article 21 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (soft law) and Article 25 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR – hard law; to which Sri Lanka is a State Party to), both hold that everyone shall have the right and opportunity to directly take part in the government of one’s country and in the conduct of public affairs.

Back in Sri Lanka, Article 12(4) of the Constitution states that special provisions may be made by way of law, subordinate legislation or Executive action for the purpose of the advancement of women. In this respect, Section 27F(1) of the Local Authorities Elections (Amendment) Act, No. 16 of 2017, which is an affirmative action, holds that the total number of women members in each Local Government body (Municipal Councils, Urban Councils and Pradeshiya Sabhas) shall not be less than 25%.

The law then is clear about women contesting. Is this spewing of bile by Niyas and company, mere political posturing which is common at the time of elections or invective that is symptomatic of a more general malaise?

Regardless, the singling out of family members of female candidates, in particular the males in their lives for shaming, thus making them lose face in the eyes of the community in terms of their reputation and social stature, is especially insidious, as although such is not the case in Sri Lanka at present, the causation of many an honour killing that has taken place in families belonging to tightknit communities elsewhere in the world, again especially among those in Muslim communities, has similar origins.

The activist who penned the letter to the EC in this regard has derided the said public speeches as being discriminatory on account of one’s sex and gender, and has deemed it as constituting hate speech that incites violent provocation against Muslim female LG Election candidates, impacting their safety and security and dignity including of their loved ones, adversely. The mobility of such candidates and even of their family members owing to being publicly targeted in such a manner, could be made restricted by virtue of such speech, therefore affecting free movement in a negative manner, in contravention of the freedom of movement enshrined in and guaranteed by Article 14(1)(h) of the Constitution.

The complainant therefore requests the EC to take immediate steps to initiate an inquiry in this regard and to ensure that the Police arrest the individual in question.   

The complaint lodged via a letter sent to the EC highlights in particular an incident which took place on the night of 17 January, 2018 where the Police had conducted a raid cum search operation for an illegal weapon allegedly hidden in the house of SLMC Puttalam District LG candidate Cader Ibrahim Rinoosa in Puttalam, by storming into the house in the middle of the night, following a phone call they had received on the 911 phone line. No such weapon had however been found. Fellow SLMC LG candidate from the same District Bisliya Bhutto speaking to Ceylon Today said that the Police had also sought to find within the home premises, a black money notes printing operation, unsuccessfully. Who made the said call is not known. According to the said activist, Rinoosa’s office was subsequently subjected to an arson attack the following day (on 18 January, 2018). Rinoosa has since halted campaigning, the activist explains. The activist who lodged the complaint with the Police desk at the EC office in Rajagiriya, also said that the Thihariya Police was not willing to act on the said compliant, stating that they required that a written complaint be made at the Thihariya Police station. The complainant also informs that the head of the Police in charge of the LG Polls has also been notified of these incidents to no avail.   

Additional Elections Commissioner M.M. Mohamed stated that the harassment of female candidates was a criminal violation as well as an election related offence. The damage however is done. Bhutto explained, “The majority of our fellow SLMC female candidates are afraid to leave their homes or houses to go outside. We used to go together to campaign. Now there are only a few, a handful, a number which is also getting less and less, day by day, to go canvassing together, even on the basis of safety in numbers.” Niyas and Secretary – SLTJ, Abdul Razik were not available for a comment.

On the other hand, one may argue as to whether the speech of Niyas et al falls within the realm of hate speech or whether it is Constitutionally protected speech under Article 10 of the Constitution which enshrines the freedom of thought, conscience and religion as a fundamental right and Article 14(1) (a) of the Constitution which holds the freedom of speech and expression including publication as a similar right.

If the law enforcement authorities, in this instance the Police, adopt a heckler’s veto approach when faced with such an instance where there is a clear lack of “imminent lawless action (as set out in Brandenburg v. Ohio)”, whereby the Police seek to prevent possible reactions from and on the part of the people, by restricting in prior, certain actions of and by the people, what such a practice exhibits is the imposition of a pronounced chilling effect upon the domain of expressions which fall within the ambit of what late Associate Justice of the Supreme Court of the United States (US), Oliver Wendell Holmes, Jr. in his dissent in US v. Schwimmer, advocated for, which is “not free thought for those who agree with us but freedom for the thought that we hate.”

Elsewhere, writing on a certain central tenet of democracy, namely free speech, the late American jurist Prof. Ronald Dworkin argued for a right to ridicule while opposing a right not to be insulted or offended. He railed against the “endorsement of the widely held opinion that freedom of speech has limits, that it must be balanced against the virtues of ‘multiculturalism’, and that Governments are right after all to propose that it be made a crime to publish anything ‘abusive or insulting’ to a group.” He pointed out that “religion must observe the principles of democracy, not the other way around. No religion can be permitted to legislate for everyone about what can or cannot be expressed any more than it can legislate about what may or may not be eaten. No one’s religious convictions can be thought to trump the freedom that makes democracy possible.”

That said, Article 19(3)(a) of the ICCPR however holds that the right to hold opinions sans interference and the freedom of expression carries with it the special duty and responsibility of respecting the rights or reputations of others.

This raises another question. What if someone sought to with deliberate and malicious intent, outrage the feelings of any class of persons, insult or attempted to insult the beliefs of that class? In a joint statement cum declaration issued in February, 2001 with the United Nations Special Rapporteur on the Freedom of Opinion and Expression, the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe Representative on the Freedom of the Media, and the Organization of American States Special Rapporteur on the Freedom of Expression as signatories, it was noted that laws governing ‘hate speech’ should in consonance with international and regional law, at a minimum, conform to several guidelines, one of which states that “no one should be penalized for statements which are true.”

Conclusion

The present situation in the North Western Province, with regard to the treatment of female LG candidates, in that it is an unprovoked attack, is infinitely undesirable in a country that claims to be a bedrock of civilization (a contentious and highly subjective notion though). The fact of the matter is that it was however inevitable and is bound to continue unabated in the face of; the ongoing blame game and finger pointing at the law enforcement authorities (the Police) and the regulatory authority (the EC) that is taking place at present with regard to the actual and perceived ineptitude on their part, almost bordering on the cliché; the continued apathy and negligence on the part of the political parties and their so called leaders to support the female candidates whom they have given nominations to; and finally the lack of any concerted effort from the judiciary (exercising the powers of suo motu – on its own motion) and on the part of the fourth estate (media), civil society organizations (excluding certain election monitoring bodies and observers who have attempted to shine a light on the issue; the absence of foreign observers at the upcoming LG polls too does not help), community based grassroots level organizations, religious organizations and the right thinking clergy, and the intelligentsia (assuming that they are not dead brown males nor live brown men afflicted by the dead brown males syndrome), to counter the spread of this poisonous narrative. The time is nigh to trump trumped-up news.

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Latest comments

  • 4
    1

    Prior to 08th January 2015, when the Muslim Community was at the receiving end of vitriolic, abusive comments hurled at them by bigoted racists from the Majority Community, they were very quick to denounce such acts as hate speech and as a serious violation of their rights as Sri Lankans. There were even protests raised by non-Muslim civil society members and groups.
    We now learn of at least one serious incident where no less a person than a ‘Moulavi’ has hurled vitriolic, abusive comments at female Muslim candidates and their families in Puttalam simply because these candidates chose to exercise their rights by contesting the next Local Government Elections in February 2018.
    Where is the Muslim anger at this gross violation of rights ?
    Where are the allegations of hate speech ?
    Where is the ACJU ?
    Where is the National Shoora Council ?
    Before the Muslim Community attempts to foster National Harmony and Reconciliation, it should put it’s own house in order first by establishing Harmony & Reconciliation among the followers of Islam in our Motherland.
    In response to an Election Guide in the ACJU website, a fellow-commentator posted the following query :

    “Assalamu Alaikum Warahmatullahi Wabarakatuhu
    Thank you for the comprehensive Guide for the LGE 2018.
    The following questions have been raised by some members of my Community and we would be grateful if you could clarify same.

    [Q1] Are Muslim Voters obliged to cast their vote only for Muslim candidates ?
    [Q2] If the response to Q1 is ‘Yes’, then what are Muslim Voters expected to do if :
    [Q2A] the Muslim Candidate does not possess the attributes mentioned in your Guide ?
    [Q2B] there are no Muslim Candidates in a specific location ?
    [Q3] Are Muslim Voters permitted to cast their votes for Female Candidates ?

    Thank you in advance for your kind guidance.”

    There has been absolutely no response to date

    • 3
      0

      E.
      These “Maolavis” are in fact political animals and have nothing to do with true Islam. Their so called “knowledge” is basically the influence of tribal pre Islamic culture, misogynic , under the guise of Islam.
      Although Pakistan and Bangladesh which are Muslim majority countries have had female political leaders; their spouses had been political leaders as well but sadly assassinated for political reasons.
      The so called Muslim political leaders in the recent past in SL have been basically political oppertunists. Hopefully, with the passage of time with more female participation with the new electoral laws,
      the influence of these Maolavis will change.
      Change is in the air.

    • 2
      0

      Ruwan Lakneth Jayakody,

      Re: Moulavi Sira Niyas and the like
      (289Words)

      They have behaved that way throughout history, to maintain and keep their hegemony, and used Islam to that effect.

      Let’s see what the foremost Islamic Scholar, Jurist and Philosopher had to say about women and their participation in society.

      Some Considerations on Averroes’ Views Regarding Women and Their Role in Society
      Published: 06 December 2008

      https://academic.oup.com/jis/article-abstract/20/1/1/857157

      Modern research shows Averroes (Ibn Rushd, d. 1198) as a philosopher in his own right. The originality of his veiws on women would place him in that category. This study examines Averroes’ view on women against the background of his society and faith. It also contextualizes them within his philosophy background, not just Ancient, such a Plato and Aristotle, but also contemporary, in particular his forerunners Alfarabi and Avicenna.

      To that end, this study focuses on two main works, the Commentary on Plato’s Republic, where Averroes expounds Plato’s model of the ideal society, and women’s role in it, and his book on Islamic law, the Bidāyat al-mujtahid (A Jurist’s Primer) In both cases Averroes, while following the tradition, philosophical or religious, displays an undeniable preference for women’s emancipation.

      Averroes’ considerations on women offer a remarkably original insight. He considers women essentially identical with men, possessing the same intellectual abilities. He advocates their active participation in society and performance of all tasks, including those that had been the prerogative of men. He urges socitey, in particular his Muslim contemporaries, to allow women a greater role in public affairs for the benefit of the entire state. His references to women break new ground, and prefigure important debates that would flourish in modern Europe. Averrores does not see a contradiction between this and Islamic religion.

  • 5
    0

    Again, the voice of a primitive thinker and a misogynist, trying to influence other like minded Muslims, to prevent Muslim women from taking part in our political system, having a voice, and progressing as a country. As the previous commenter asks, where are the voices of outraged Muslim men and women? They should drown out the sound of hate for Muslim women, voices who seem to want them in the kitchen, not having an opinion, or place in this country. It should make people wonder why this man is so insecure, and afraid of Muslim women taking a stronger role in politics. It is these backward, narrow minded men, who are preventing the Muslim community from progressing, and having a voice in this country.

    Niyas seems a nasty piece of work, and men who have women in their family, taking part in these elections, should be proud of them, encourage them, support them, and ignore the cavemen.

    • 0
      2

      Chitra, you must be a loose woman to talk badly about Muslim because this journalist Jatagody writing particularly about Muslim woman contesting election while generally abuse and attack against women are rampant among your kind and also in this election. One woman candidate in Wennappuwa went missing, Jayachandrisiri of Argyampathy subjected character assasination, in Moneragala district one candidate was attacked and was hospitalised and in Batticoloa district two Tamil women were harassed and subjected to verbal abuse. All these were non-Muslim. Why this rotten journalist writing only about Muslim female politicians and you loose woman taking that as an excuse to attack Muslims?

  • 3
    0

    Anyone looking for description and inadequacies of a misogynist, go no further. Ruwan Jayakody has got them in paragraph 1.
    Thank you Ruwan for bring the pre-LG elections goings on in Puttalam. Maulavi/Mullah Niyas Siddeeq Siraj, is setting a bad example. But the silence of the Lankan Muslim MPs is worse. One does not know their stand on misogyny.
    The Police mid-night storming of the house of Puttalam District LG candidate Cader Ibrahim Rinoosa smells political involvement.

  • 0
    0

    This comment was removed by a moderator because it didn’t abide by our Comment policy.For more detail see our Comment policy https://www.colombotelegraph.com/index.php/comments-policy-2/

  • 0
    0

    Give 50/50 for them in all areas

  • 1
    0

    The Native Vedhi society is a just where violence against women is not tolerated. The Uruwarige folks will never tolerate something like this.

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