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When even a cardboard model can arouse...
Published on: Saturday, July 08, 2017

By Datuk Dr Johan Arriffin
SHAHRIL Azmi Abdul Shukor who posted a four-minute video on Facebook has apologised to the offended admitting that he had gone overboard by kissing the standee of Nor Shafila Khairusalleh.

What started as a tongue in cheek Facebook posting of a Shell advertisement went viral.

Shahril said it was meant to be a joke. I am sure those who are active on social media have experienced this situation one time or another and can empathise with Shahril although we must admit that it was done in poor taste.

Nor Shafila, who was the face of Shell Malaysia standee certainly did not expect the kind of reaction she was getting. She expressed her disappointment over the actions of some men who had posed for photos while kissing and touching the private parts of the standee.

After a month of fasting, prayers, abstinence, reflection and searching for inner peace for most Muslims, Muslim group Isma released their pent-up frustration on women.

Isma president Abdullah Zaik Abdul Rahman blamed Shell for creating the situation and was quick to exploit the issue. Isma urged companies to learn from Shell’s “mistake” of using a woman model to sell its products and services, despite women being used as advertising models for centuries.

I can imagine the headlines around the world, “Man Caught Molesting Female Standee” or “Man can’t control urge at Shell petrol station” or something to that effect. Speaking to FMT, Isma president Abdullah Zaik Abdul Rahman said this was the outcome when some companies chose to “exploit” women.

“Using women to improve sales of goods and services is an exploitation of women which strays far from the value of purity accorded to Muslim women,” he said. “Let this act as a lesson to other companies in the future.”

Abdullah Zaik cruncher, “A Muslim woman should not accept the offer to become a model to help a company in its sales efforts, even if she would wear a scarf and cover up.

We must not be fooled by Isma thinking they are championing women rights; it’s more like a message to women to stay at home and be a subservient wife. Abdullah Zaik let the cat out of the bag when he said it was “natural” for men to be aroused when looking at women, but did not excuse the actions of the men.

“They should lower their gaze and be careful of their action. He said, however, that it would be wrong to put all of the blame on the men.

“It’s not their fault alone. From his statement Isma is saying it’s the women’s fault even she is a piece of cardboard. Women are to be blamed for everything.

The controversial Perak Mufti Tan Sri Harussani Zakaria, trying to be relevant, joined the fray by saying, the use of standees and plastic ads or anything that portrays image and body of a woman is prohibited in Islam.

He said the authorities should be aware of the negative effects when such advertisements,

“Using the image of a women in standees is prohibited as advertisements such as that will only cause excitement.

“It becomes negative when a person kisses, molests and does other things to the standee,” he said.

He has now confirmed that they are so many sick men in Malaysia, that even a piece of cardboard gives a man the urge. The only thing that the Perak Mufti omitted in his statement is that the offenders should repent like when Jakim said when a woman touched a dog.

The issue here is not about using women as models for advertisement, but more about how women are perceived by Islamist groups. Do they treat women as a piece of property like a standee or do they treat them with respect that they deserve.

We can garner some clues of how Muslim men treat women by past statements and actions of Muslim leaders.

In a 2015 report, the Perak Mufti said that men can always have sexual intercourse with their spouses even if the latter do not agree, saying that a Muslim woman has “no right” to reject her husband (except in certain circumstances).

Federal Territories Minister and Umno Secretary General “Ku Nan” at a Puteri Umno gathering has suggested that women should dress shabbily to avoid public harassment. Ku Nan was responding to a Puteri Umno member who expressed concern over public safety during a gathering. “It’s because you’re so beautiful.

The next time you go out, wear more comot (shabby) clothes,” he was quoted as saying.

In 2016, it was reported that five days into Ramadan under “Ops Aurat”, 31 Muslim women in Kelantan have been hauled up for not wearing a tudung or for dressing in a tight outfit. Twenty-four of them were let off with a warning while the rest were sent for counselling.

According to the Kelantan Religious Department, Muslim women must cover up and this included wearing headscarves and not putting on tight clothes. Those convicted of indecent behavior under the Kelantan Sya¬riah Criminal Code 1985 would face a fine of up to RM1,000 or up to six months in jail, or both.

Tun M’s wife and the current PM’s wife do not wear tudung; should they be counselled, fined or jailed too when they visit Kelantan?

In April of this year Tasek Gelugor MP Datuk Shabudin Yahaya caused an uproar in Parliament when he said that there is nothing wrong with a rape victim marrying the rapist, “When we discuss 12 and 15 year olds, we don’t see their physical bodies because some children aged 12 or 15, their bodies are like 18-year-old women”.

From a cross section of Muslim leader’s statements, a Mufti, Federal Minister and Senior Umno leader, and Member of Parliament, we should not be surprised if their statements have encouraged other men to misbehave and continuously degrade women to the lowest level. Men with wives and daughters should take offence for this kind nonsense and put a stop to archaic statements which can put women in harm’s way and open to sexual harassment.

Muslim leaders seem to be concerned with sex and women dressing rather than issues of moral decadence of our youth, the fact that more Muslim youth are joining ISIS, Muslim students killed in religious schools, rampant corruption in 1MDB and Felda, and hardships of the lower income population struggling to make ends meet.

They ignore issues that matters most in our everyday narrative and cherry pick issues to show that they are more Muslim than others. Jakim with their RM1billion budget is more concerned with Muslim confusion of Auntie Annie hot dogs and Muslim keeping or touching dogs to the point of asking offenders to repent.

However, Jakim has not asked those involved in corruption in government or GLCs to repent.

Islamist parties like PAS is now stuck between a rock and hard place. They criticisms of corruption in IMDB or Felda is muted as they pursue partnership with Umno in the hope of implementing Hudud laws in Malaysia and benefit from the marriage. There is nothing Islamic in PAS.

I have great sympathy for Muslim women especially, and like many of us, we have wives and daughter who must go through life in a male dominated society. Women are blamed for everything, from the way they dress, to how we tempt men even if they are covered from head to toe. Women are still far from “value of purity” as Isma like to portray in the eyes of men. We must make more effort to educate our men to respect women in society and behave like a good father, husband and brother to all women. The education must start with the boys in the homes of our loved ones and in school.

- Datuk Dr Johan Arriffin was the former Deputy Director of Yayasan Sabah and a member of G25.

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