Maryam Lee, Mohani Niza and Dian Sofia describe how they came under investigation after a “Malay Women and Dehijabing” forum on Saturday.
We are very thankful and appreciative of your support and solidarity.
As of now, more than 24 hours after the first press statement by Minister in the Prime Minister’s Department for Religious Affairs, Mujahid Yusof Rawa, on initiating investigations on the book launch and forum “Malay Women and Dehijabbing”, we have not been made aware of the steps of action that may be taken.
The event was held on Saturday, 13 April 2019 at 2pm. The venue sponsor was Gerakbudaya bookstore, which also owns the publishing house that published Unveiling Choice.
We had a three-hour discussion based on the book with the panel members sharing their lived experiences as ex-hijabis in Malaysia. It was an intellectual discourse based on the women’s lived realities, looking at the phenomenon from sociological and historical perspectives, alongside discussions on the socio-political realities of Malaysian girls and women today.
The event was over by 5pm and participants left the event on a good note.
It was the day after the event, Sunday, 14 April, that the forum became highly criticised on social media for two days. Negative comments of the event largely came from those who did not attend the discussion; as a result, they spread misinformation of what was discussed and distorted perceptions of the book, the author, and the panel members.
We were informed of the investigations by the religious affairs authorities through the minister’s media statement on Facebook.
On the morning of Tuesday, 16 April, the Selangor Islamic Religious Department (Jais) officers paid a visit to Gerakbudaya to get copies of the book and talked to a Gerakbudaya representative at 3:30pm, responding to reports made to them regarding the event.
We are ready to give full cooperation to the authorities; however, we are unequivocal that there has been no transgression of Malaysian laws.
We condemn this unnecessary investigation as abuse of power to harass and intimidate women activists who are speaking up on issues affecting women and organisers for intellectual discussions that do not serve the status quo.
We implore the public and the authorities to explore the subject at hand with rational thinking and dialogue, as we believe in healthy discourse and the defence of democratic spaces for all minorities in Malaysia.
Let us all do our part to stop a culture of misinformation and fear of intellectual discourse.