Zari Islam, Jurisprudence, Gender

Zari Islam, Jurisprudence, Gender - Chapter 10 Shifting...

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244 Chapter 10 Shifting Boundaries: Islam, Jurisprudence and Gender in Malaysia Zarizana Abdul Aziz Since independence, Malaysians have been subject to ethnic- and later religious-based discourses through the domination of various parties anchored in ethnicity and/or religion in the body politic 1 . Consequently, through the years, as inter-ethnic and inter-religious relations and forces evolved, tensions developed, with politicians, civil society and religious bodies of different persuasions staking their claims over their constituents. This resulted in new and shifting spaces along the boundaries, if not limits of inter-ethnic, inter-religious and gender relations and identities. State regulation of behaviour, faith, status and identity is a recent trend in this struggle. Challenges have been levelled at public and governmental policies and legislation, and even the Federal Constitution to make the legislative, executive and judiciary ‘syariah 2 compliant’. Such institutionalisation and politicisation of Islam in Malaysia is rooted, in large measure, in the special relationship, inter-dependence and inter-changeability between Islam and the ethnic Malay identity (Maznah Mohamad, Zarizana Aziz, Chin Oy Sim 2009). As the Malaysian legal system moves to accommodate syariah, there has been an increase in inter-ethnic and inter-religious tensions, especially affecting women and gender equality. These tensions range from the regulation of public and private behaviour; demand for culturally-sensitive interpretation and application of human rights; and legal contestation between the civil and syariah jurisdictions with varied implications for Malaysian women of every faith.
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245 This chapter discusses the implications and social cost of the institutionalisation and politicisation of Islam on gender and ethnic relations in Malaysia. In particular, it will refer to: The use of separate legal religious principles to deny the universal applicability of laws to all Malaysians. This includes the non-applicability of legal gains in gender equality to Muslim women e.g. in child custody, guardianship rights and inheritance; The diminishing tolerance for diversity and the policing of behaviour e.g. in sexual misconduct policing against women; The role and ability of legal institutions to resolve everyday conflicts. This includes the various legal and administrative battles waged in the courts and/or through the law arising from inter-faith issues, with particular effect on women; and The use of legal institutions in the political power struggle. This includes the appeal to the use of syariah criminal principles in proving sexual crimes which have proved detrimental to women in other jurisdictions. In discussing these aspects of structural politicisation of Islam, the chapter seeks to establish how such moves often target female citizens to assert ideological one-upmanship and impact women adversely.
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