Siti Kasim: An inconvenient woman - Commander S THAYAPARAN (Retired) Royal Malaysian Navy
Wednesday, February 13, 2019
Malaysiakini : “If particular care and attention is not paid to the ladies, we
are determined to foment a rebellion, and will not hold ourselves bound
by any laws in which we have no voice or representation.” ― Abigail Adams, The Letters of John and Abigail Adams
| For those of us who view religious extremism, which is reaching
critical levels as the existential threat facing this country, Siti
Kasim is the raised middle finger to the religious bigots, fascist
crypto-Islamists and race supremacists who have control and influence in
Whether fighting for the rights of women,
indigenous people, the LGBTQ community or opposing radical Islam, Siti
Kasim has made herself a target for the religious bureaucracy and
political operatives in the establishment.
While most Muslims who
do not support the darker paths of Islam are content to hope for a
moderate agenda from the political and religious elite, Siti openly
advocates a progressive agenda for all Malaysians.
interview, Siti reminds us why people who read are dangerous to the
established order of things, and continues in her effort to save
Malaysia from the political and religious class who view her as a threat
to their dominion.
Siti Kasim is an inconvenient reminder that
the progressive forces in this country that could save Malaysia are
being marginalised, and that speaking truth to power is problematic in
these partisan times.
Do you think the persecution you face is based on the fact that you are a woman questioning religious dogma? Yes,
being an outspoken woman does not sit well with the patriarchy culture
of radical Islamism. Also, a woman who does not conform to their view on
how a Muslim woman should be.
How do you cope with the harassment you receive?
try to ignore and focus on my causes. Of course, I can’t run away from
reading the nasty messages sent to me, but I take it in my stride and
believe that what I am doing is right for my country and my fellow
Malaysians. The supportive messages I receive give me the strength to
continue, and I know I am on the right path. I thank God for giving me a
strong constitution to face all the negativity thrown at me.
What do you think is the Attorney-General's Chambers' (AGC) role in the current charges against you?
I am not sure what is the AGC’s role in the current charges against me. (Note:This
interview was conducted before the AGC dropped the charges against Siti
Kasim for showing her middle finger to hecklers in a forum.) From
what’s stated by OCCI Fadzil, he received the endorsement to charge me
from the previous AGC. I believe it’s selective persecution against me
by certain quarters within the government.
do you engage with Muslims who believe in the Islamist mode of thinking
and believe that sanctions against you are justified?
have no hope of engaging with them. These are people who are
indoctrinated in radical Islamism. The teachings, the mentality of which
is no different from that of Talibanism and ISIS terrorists. Only
Taliban and ISIS terrorists will sanction others for being different
from them. The only difference between them and the Taliban and ISIS is
that they have no power or weapons to carry out their threats. When they
have those, the country will be torn asunder.
Yet our government
does not seem to realise that we have a serious terrorist mentality bred
with extreme prejudice inside our society, which needs to be
eradicated. This is a serious problem today.
participating in and leading terrorist organisations all around the
world. We have groups like Skuad Badar, which is nothing more than a
terrorist organisation without weapons terrorising people. We have
people like Amri Che Mat and Pastor Koh disappearing in plain daylight
and never to be heard again. We should be terrified. Not talking about
it is not going to make it go away. We need to tackle it head-on with
Does being a "liberal" Muslim who appeals to a
certain demographic bring with it more problems when engaging in the
Islamic discourse? It should not be. Remember our Rukun Negara has
the word 'liberal' in it, and it was written by Malay leadership at a
time when Malay society needed to progress. In fact, most of the liberal
Muslims I know have more knowledge about the Quran than the majority of
the Malay population because liberals read more on their own and don't
depend on the cleric class to tell them about their religion.
Do you think that Mujahid Yusof Rawa (photo) is doing enough to offer a counter-narrative in the Islamic discourse in this country?
They are still not facing the fact that our religious-bent Malaysian
education system is delivering to us every year a more radicalised
Islamist generation who are intolerant and increasingly militant in
mindset. It is no surprise that PAS is increasing in strength, and Umno
has to be more radical Islamist than before in order to gain Malay
votes. We need to change this mindset by changing education to go
back to our secular humanist roots. The roots that made the Malays
progressive and more developed in the 80s.
What do you think is
the most important issue facing the Orang Asal community in this
country and what has the Harapan government done to address this issue?
I'd like to correct the usage of Orang Asal and Orang Asli. The 'Orang
Asal' term is used for Sabah and Sarawak indigenous people, whilst Orang
Asli is for those in the peninsula. The Orang Asli are largely
forest or agriculture based, although several individuals have achieved
levels of educational and economic success comparable to those of the
Nevertheless, it is no hidden secret that the
Orang Asli rank among the most marginalised of Malaysians today, not
just in terms of numbers, but in their ability to determine their own
fate. The once politically autonomous and independent people are but a pale likeness of their ancestors. Much
of this has to do with the fact that the Malaysian nation state does
not recognise the Orang Asli as a separate people - that is, as distinct
groups associated with particular territorial bases and requiring
'government' on a different basis from that of the other communities.
as can be discerned from their demands, the Orang Asli are not, at
least not yet, seeking self-determination in the sense that they want to
secede from the Malaysian nation-state. Rather, the desire is to
exercise full autonomy in their traditional territories, both in the
control and ownership of their lands, and in the determination of their
way of life and in the way they deal with the dominant society.
issue of Orang Asli land rights is but the most visible and deeply-felt
manifestation of the principal problem facing the Orang Asli viz-a-viz
the unwillingness of the state to recognise the Orang Asli as a distinct
people. Using the 'land rights' problem as a strategy for Orang
Asli political mobilisation is rational because the issue is deeply felt
among the communities, easily identifiable, and it is the source of
much social stress for the Orang Asli.
With the recent suit which
our federal government initiated against the Kelantan state government,
it can be seen that the Pakatan Harapan government is attempting to
correct the wrongs. We have also seen more Orang Asli senators being
appointed when they came into power.
From our engagement with the
current government, we can see there is a lot more improvement than
before, at least with the current minister in charge of Orang Asli
Affairs. We hope the Harapan government will continue with its
determination in trying to solve our Orang Asli problems.
Do you believe that Harapan has a moderate Islamic agenda?
have, but they do not know how to go about it. They do not have the
leadership for it. The political will is missing. I will be talking in
more detail on this subject in my column soon.
Do you think it
is important for non-Muslims to speak up when they witness Islamic
transgressions or does this make the situation worse?
need them to stand up for fellow Malaysians, and Malays who are being
persecuted by the conservative Islamist authorities, to ensure Malaysia
will always be the home for their children and grandchildren to live in
and prosper. When any public policy is based on any religious ideology,
every citizen must have the right to speak up about it.
Is the press doing its part in highlighting Islamic provocations?
No. It has not done enough to highlight and criticise.
Why do think "moderate" Muslims are afraid to speak up?
look at the social media comments by their so-called fellow Muslims
against anyone who does not conform to them. The amount of vile
comments, threats of sanctions, harassment, persecution and even threat
of physical harm by the Islamist elements in Malay society are enough to
scare away and silence many Muslims.
Do you think the Malay community needs Islamic departments at state and federal levels?
ideal conditions, the answer would have been 'no', but in our
environment we need a federal department that can monitor and revamp
radical Islamic teaching that is going on today to abolish them. That
should be their job.
We don’t need them to do dakwah (proselytisation). No government should be using tax money to propagate any religion.