Raging at Straw Men

I just thought I’d expand on the topic of the recent attacks on a sermon by JAIS by DAP leaders Chong Eng and Syerleena Abdul Rashid that I touched on in my last post. What I’m thinking of doing here is to go through Chong Eng’s statement first and add my comments, then maybe do the same with Syerleena’s article. To be fair to Chong Eng, her response seems a bit more measured compared to Syerleena’s hysterics (I know it sounds sexist, but if you read her article, I think you’d agree). There’s a lot I’d like to say, so perhap I’ll do it in parts, bit by bit. We’ll see how it goes.

So let’s start at the beginning:

JAIS’s Friday sermon message on “Tutup Aurat” gives misleading information on rape, smacks of victim-blaming, and shows male bias in religious leadership

Last Friday 6th February 2015, Jabatan Agama Islam Selangor (JAIS) delivered a sermon titled “Aurat: Antara Kebebasan dan Maruah Diri.”1 In the sermon, JAIS said that Muslim women should cover up their ‘aurat’ to prevent “being harrassed physically or mentally… to prevent false accusations (fitnah), evil gazes (pandangan yang jahat) and bad incidents (perkara yang buruk berlaku)… Negative incidents such as rape, illicit sex, and incest (rogol, zina, sumbang mahram) can be avoided.”

Now, this is where she builds her straw man. You see those ellipses? You might think they’re there to keep things short, to leave out parts that are not relevant. If you did, well, you’d probably be wrong. I think they’re there to leave out parts that are inconvenient to her argument. Look back at my previous post to see what was actually in the text. A more accurate translation would be

Actually, perfectly covering the aurat, specifically for women, can prevent harassment physically and mentally. Indirectly, clothes that cover the aurat and are modest are among the ways to prevent fitnah, evil gazes and bad incidents. Paths to negative symptoms such as rape, illicit sex and incest can be blocked.

Don’t you think that by leaving out the highlighted words, the message changes somewhat? With those words there, one cannot claim that the sermon is saying that all rapes can be prevented by only covering the aurat or that the connection between dress and rape has to be a direct one (i.e. what the victim was wearing at the time caused her rape). If you read the rest of Chong Eng’s statement, I hope you’ll see that it is on just such a claim that many of her arguments against JAIS hang.

Now, do you think it’s a coincidence that those words were left out? If you don’t, then what does that tell you about Chong Eng’s honesty and her intentions in issuing the statement?

Well, that’s it for now, I’m afraid. Sorry to be so abrupt. I’ll expand on this point by looking at specific examples in Chong Eng’s statement at another time. Been keeping late nights recently and it’s starting to show at work. Stay tuned.

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