Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Sisters In Islam (SIS)

Sisters in Islam (SIS) is an organization of Muslim women in Malaysia which seeks to articulate women's rights in Islam by emphasising the need to interpret the Qur'an and the hadith in their proper historical and cultural contexts. It also advocates for the right of women to hold public office. One of the more prominent leaders of SIS is Zainah Anwar who was the head for two decades.

In 1987, a clutch of women lawyers, activists, academics and journalists including Zainah Anwar jointly founded a fledgling movement to look into the problems Muslim women had with the Syariah courts. In 1990, the movement formally became known as SIS. Its focus was to challenge laws and policy made in the name of Islam that discriminate against women. Eventually, SIS areas of work expanded to emcompass larger issues of democracy, human rights and constitutionalism.

Said Zainah Anwar in an interview with The Star:

It’s as if in Islam, women don’t have any rights at all. One woman asked, if the house were on fire, would she then have to seek her husband’s permission to flee! Women cannot even use their common sense to save their (own) lives. This cannot be Islam. God is just. Islam is just.

Aghast at what was being taught in the ceramahs (sermons), the founding sisters turned to the Quran to find out for themselves what the verses say, as opposed to various interpretations. What they discovered was a revelation. On polygamy, the Quran says: “If you fear that you cannot treat them the same, then marry just the one.”

That was a moment of epiphany. It was that kind of questioning that made us want to read the Quran with a new lens. It was a liberating process understanding that the Quran speaks to women and is lifting and empowering.

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