22 March, 2010

1Malaysia women's group 'Sisters in Islam' sued over 'Islam' in name

Muslim activists filed a lawsuit against a Malaysian women's group, asking it to remove the word "Islam" from its name on the ground that it misleads people to believe it speaks for all Muslims.

The suit against Sisters in Islam, one of the most well-known non government groups in this Muslim-majority country, comes after it angered conservative Muslims by criticizing Islamic Shariah laws that allow the caning of women for offenses such as drinking alcohol.

Dewan Pemuda Masjid Malaysia's (Masjid Youth of Malaysia) executive director, Mohd Taqiuddin Abdullah, filed the summons at the Kuala Lumpur High Court Registrar's Office through Sahlan & Associates.

In the originating summons, Dewan Pemuda Masjid sought a declaration that the respondent's legal name was not Sisters in Islam.

It also sought for an order prohibiting the respondent from using Sisters in Islam as its name and identity in any pamphlet, correspondence, publication and/or statement, whether in the Internet, print or electronic media, until it was legally allowed to do so.

The applicant further sought for an order forcing the respondent to remove the name 'Sisters in Islam' from its website, printed materials and publications and to prevent the respondent from distributing printed materials which used the name Sisters in Islam. until the respondent was legally authorised to do so.

The applicant also sought for costs and other reliefs, but did not state the amount.

In his supporting affidavit, Taqiuddin claimed that SIS Forum had breached the Companies Act 1965 by using the name 'Sisters In Islam' as its organisation's name in its activities.

He claimed that based on the respondent's 'Memorandum Of Association', it was not stated that the organisation's objective was to look after the interest of Muslim women, but was more oriented towards secular feminism which supported the policy of equality between men and women.

Numerous Muslim groups have in recent months accused Sisters in Islam of misinterpreting religious principles, highlighting a divide between Muslims who demand strict enforcement of Islamic morality laws and others who fear religious intolerance is threatening the moderate practice of their religion.

Hamidah Marican, executive director of Sisters in Islam, declined to comment on the case, saying the group's lawyers need to study the suit before they can issue any statement. However, she defended the group's work as being "driven by the tenets of the Quran and Islam."

Established in 1988, Sisters in Islam has long been the most outspoken advocate of reforms involving Muslim laws that allegedly fail to protect the rights of women, such as regarding polygamy and child marriages. Its official name is SIS Forum (Malaysia), but it uses Sisters in Islam on its Web site and publications.

Sisters in Islam's troubles with other Muslim groups began last year when it tried to stop authorities from caning a woman who was sentenced by an Islamic court for drinking beer in public. Since then, three other Muslim women have been caned for having extramarital sex, the first time the punishment has been carried out on Malaysian women.

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