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Jade Rasif, Sarah Bagharib and Beyond The Hijab: Demonstrating the power of social media!

Sense And Nonsense By Tan Bah Bah

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This must be declared the week of female influencers and activist Muslim groups, if I may call them such. All in just a number of days, we feel the power of their voices – for the greater social good. Well done.

Jade Rasif took to social media more than a week ago to detail she or her family were not properly briefed, informed or advised when an Indonesian maid that her family employed was released from her Covid-19 stay-home notice after just a few days. The former DJ and model said she was told this was because the domestic worker had “recovered”. Two weeks later, the maid was called up for a Covid-19 test, which turned out to be positive. She was then placed on stay-home notice again.

According to , Rasif said that the family was neither provided with information regarding the maid’s status – including where she was taken to – nor told if family members had to quarantine themselves.

Then followed statements from the Ministry of Manpower which at first said her statement was inaccurate, among other things. To cut the story short, as a result of some Facebook postings by Rasif, finally came clean.  It was wrong and it apologised to her.  

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“She shared with us that this had affected her negatively. We would like to extend our apologies to her for this,” it said.

Wow, Jade Rasif.  I now join the 360,000 people who follow her on Instagram.  

Sarah Bagharib, who works in communications, was unhappy that the People’s Association used, without permission, her wedding photograph as a standee for a Hari Raya decor at a housing estate in Tiong Bahru. She told The that beyond the disregard for her privacy, what enraged her was how the image had been “caricatured for entertainment and amusement. They blew it up and cut out our faces, and used it as a way to celebrate Hari Raya, a cultural event which is not even related to the photograph”.

The PA has apologised.  “This should not have happened. Neither our vendor nor Radin Mas CO (where the standee was used) obtained any permission to do so. This is against the policies which have been put in place. We have since spoken to the vendor on the seriousness of this infringement, and will follow up with the appropriate steps.”

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Bagharib said she sent an e-mail to the PA’s chief executive director Lim Hock Yu. Lim replied to her e-mail and apologised, while Minister for Culture, Community and Youth and Second Minister for Law Edwin Tong also apologised to her separately, via private message. Tong is Deputy Chairman of the PA.

Again, I’m speechless.  Sorry is no longer such a difficult word to say. It liberates you, and PA have found out.

Finally, there is the issue of the obnoxious online poll ranking the sexual attractiveness of 12 female asatizahs, or religious teachers, in Singapore, as reported by TODAY Online. The poll has sparked outrage in the Muslim community, including a public condemnation by President Halimah Yacob.

President Halimah said that she was deeply perturbed when she found out about the poll. “Is there no limit to how low some will stoop to degrade and defile women?” Indeed.

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According to TODAY, while it is not immediately clear on which social media platform the poll was created, several religious teachers talked about it online. One was Ustaz Muhammad Zahid Mohd Zin, who spoke up on the issue in an Instagram post on Wednesday (May 26).  Ustaz Zahid, the chief executive officer of the Muslim Youth Forum, had put up a screenshot that censored the names and faces of the 12 asatizahs. He wrote: “(Whoever) did this must be held accountable! I’ve promised them to make sure those involved will be held responsible.”  Halimah said that the Islamic Religious Council of Singapore (Muis) and the police should fully investigate this incident, and punish those found guilty.

“This is not just the worst kind of harassment that’s against our law, but amounts to an open invitation to commit sexual violence against women,” she said. Touche.

The police said in response to TODAY’s queries that a report has been filed and that investigations are ongoing.

In a comment on her own Facebook account, Rahayu Mahzam, Parliamentary Secretary for Health and Communications and Information, did not address the poll directly.  However, she said that efforts to “encourage women’s development will be meaningless if the society still disrespects women and still perceives women as the weaker gender or as sexual objects”.

Her views were very loudly echoed by Beyond The Hijab, an online group which has made this statement:

“We strongly condemn the misogyny and sexism of a group of men who initiated a poll on a social media platform, to vote who among their women peers deserved to be successively raped (“gangbang”). We are deeply alarmed by the poll’s vulgar sexualisation of women.

“We live in a patriarchal society that consistently objectifies and sexualises women in direct and indirect ways. In the poll, 1,005 participated in this online sexual harassment, of which the majority are men. It is alleged that students of Islamic studies were among the voters. Their predatory behaviour is worrying for the safety of their female asatizah colleagues, the moral and social development of their male asatizah colleagues, and also the larger Muslim community who will rely on their future religious knowledge and guidance. 

“Since the poll was exposed, female asatizahs have shared personal anecdotes about the sexual harassment and assault they suffered at the hands of their men peers and how their attempts at seeking redress were in vain. This shows the persistence of sexism in the workplace, where victims are constantly met with a lack of institutional support when seeking justice. 

 “We remind ourselves that sexual objectification begins with intentions and words. These ‘jokes’, images and conversations eventually manifest into (sexual) violence).

“This poll exists in a culture where women are persistently sexualised, dehumanised and denigrated, and where male and institutional reputations are more important than women’s dignity and rights to justice. It is this culture that sows the seeds for incidents of sexual violence to keep occurring.”

I wholeheartedly support Beyond The Hijab.

 

Tan Bah Bah is a former senior leader writer with The . He was also managing editor of a local magazine publishing company.

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