Singapore—Member of Parliament Raeesah Khan (Workers’ Party-Sengkang GRC) weighed in on the shocking recent online poll on local Muslim female religious teachers. In the poll condemned by religious and political leaders around Singapore, netizens were asked to vote for the teachers who, they believed, deserved a “gangbang”.

It is a matter that cannot be taken lightly, Ms Khan stressed, addressing the idea that an online poll cannot do much harm.

Ms Khan, who at 22 founded an empowerment organisation for marginalised women and children, and who has had much experience in championing their causes, is familiar with the threat of sexual violence and the fear that women feel.

Some of her experiences have been very close to home indeed, as she shared in a Facebook post on Thursday night (May 27), including the rape of one of her housemates during her university years.

She wrote that while some may be inclined to dismiss the online poll as a joke, “when over a thousand men could find it in themselves to dehumanise our asatizahs in that way, surely we must conclude that this is but a symptom of a deeper wound in our society.” Asatizahs are female religious teachers.

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More than a thousand votes had been cast in the online poll posted on the US-based social media site MeWe.

According to Ms Khan, “Others will read this news about the poll and know of the injustice it underpins, the harm it poses and the fear it evokes.”

She went on to describe this fear, which she says “pervades stories of rape, assault and domestic violence, even towards minors. 

“A fear that I first understood when my own housemate in university was raped in the very house we shared. 

The fear of a group of Singaporean asatizahs today, opening their phones to see their faces splashed across a social media site, their bodies objectified for the entertainment of men with no recognition of their humanity.”

Ms Khan urged that conversations be held with women who have  experienced sexual violence in their relationships, “and they will tell you that what often starts as a joke or quip may end up in one of the various forms that abuse can take on.”

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Women who have been harassed at home, school, workplaces or in public would also say that “in 2021 in Singapore, too many men do not accord women… respect that any person deserves.” 

She, therefore, warned that “such undercurrents of misogyny” must be checked, lest the fears of women who have been victimised only grow stronger. 

“And when over a thousand men could find it in themselves to dehumanise our asatizahs in that way, surely we must conclude that this is but a symptom of a deeper wound in our society,” Ms Khan added.

The poll, which was first brought to light in an Instagram post by Ustaz Muhammad Zahid Mohd Zin late on Wednesday (May 26).

He wrote, “I got a distress call from an Ustazah and were (sic) shocked!! All listed here in an app are our local Asatizah!!! Who did this must be held accountable! Ive promised them to make sure those involved will be hold (sic) responsible!!”

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Other leaders have condemned the poll, including President Halimah Yacob, who wrote in a Facebook post, “Is there no limit to how low some will stoop to degrade and defile women? Not only those who conducted the poll but those who participated in it also deserves our strongest condemnation.”

Police are currently investigating the matter. The Infocomm Media Development Authority (IMDA) said on Friday (May 28) that the poll constitutes prohibited content under Singapore’s Internet Code of Practice, and has asked that it be removed from local social media platforms.

/TISG

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