A recent article by the daughter of the former power idol of Malaysia, Mahathir Mohammad, decided she wanted to weigh in on the recent controversy revolving around the future canings of 24 women and 17 men who were accused of committing the crime of adultery (more specifically incest). Writing in The Star, she complains about the recent ruling, but for reasons entirely absent from Islamic thought and even the rhetoric of the more rational elements of the feminist movement. Not only that, but her argument is full of fallacious reasoning, making it apparent that while she certainly inherited her father’s status, she didn’t get the gracious portion of his intellect.
The first thing you notice wrong about Marina’s article is the title “It’s A Crime Against Women” and her later insistence on that this recent controversy is ‘interesting’ for the fact that “[Malaysian’s] interest in public punishments only extends to women and only for sexual crimes.” Never mind that in the very first paragraph of her piece that she mentions 17 of those being punished are men. Throughout the article we hear little else about these men and are told over and over again about women’s suffering. While it certainly is okay to fight for the rights of women and to inform people of women’s suffering, it becomes nothing more than a shallow commitment if you are not showing the same passion when similar injustices happen to men. A feminists is only as good as their appreciation for all human beings and their disgusts for all forms of suffering. Ranting about the injustices against women while completely ignoring the plight of the men being punished shows that she is not really concerned about women perse, but that she is more concerned with identity politics and making herself a figure of leadership to a select group of people with tunnel vision.
This can be no more clear in her statement:
More faulty is the logic behind punishing women for incest. As in statutory rape, incest is equally a problem of power dynamics, where one party, usually the woman, is unable to refuse sexual overtures from someone who has more power than her. In this case, the person is her father, uncle or brother.
While it certainly cannot be denied that many women are in fact victims of cases of incest, this is not something universal and it doesn’t always mean men are the instigators in seeking sexual gratification from their relatives. Often times, women are also accomplices in these sort of behaviors. To continuously preach as though women are always the victims, not only perpetuates this stereotype of a society of men who are all potential rapists — thereby demonizing them — but also continues the stereotype that women are merely submissive, weak creatures who are being controlled by their overbearing male masters. It seems that Marina forgets that women too often engage in immoral sexual behavior, and instead prefers to characterize them all as weak victims to the social ills that are, by her logic, created entirely by men.
So how can she claim to be fighting for the rights of women and against laws that are a “crime against women”, when she fails to recognize men and perpetuates stereotypes without any evidence or reference to the actual context of events of each of those being punished? Sure, it’s easy to always point the finger while ignoring the suffering of others, hoping that age-old hypothesis about the patriarchy will bolster your argument in the face of already-die-hard liberal secularists, but it doesn’t work for people who actually want to think.
Numerous times throughout the article, Marina cannot seem to make a coherent argument. The entire piece seems to be primarily about emotion more than rationale. The chaos of her thinking begins early in the article when she complains about the justification for the canings being made a public spectacle:
Actually, if anyone has ever watched public spectacles such as canings and any sort of public humiliation of individuals, the last thing that happens is that the audience feels empathy for the victims. Instead they tend to take the side of the punisher and encourage them even more, partly in the belief that this makes them seem more righteous. Few ever put themselves in the shoes of the humiliated, believing that it will never happen to them.
So the logic that such a punishment will act as a deterrent is faulty, just as the death penalty has never deterred anyone from trafficking drugs in our country. Those who say that without these laws, things would have been worse have never been able to provide the evidence for it.
There are several problems with these two paragraphs alone. First, her insistence that people don’t feel empathy for the victims, but instead encourage those inflicting the punishment for the sake of looking more ‘righteous’. It’s apparent she’s never actually witnessed public punishment — nor is it surprising given her pampered upbringing. While it certainly looks the case that people on the outside are encouraging the punishment due to their lack of empathy and want to appear ‘righteous’, more often than not there is a sense of empathy as well as the ‘act’ of encouragement, which is not for the sake of appearing ‘righteous’ but for the sake of appearing as though one agrees with the punishment being inflicted. This is based on their fear. To say that people do not walk away with a sense of dread from such displays, especially when they play no part in its application, is not only a disregard for common sense, but also normative human behavior.
Second, there is absolutely no connection between empathy and deterrence. It doesn’t follow. The deterrence comes with the fear factor that is created in these public displays, not with people putting themselves in the shoes of those being punished. That is automatic. It is the fact that such a thing could happen to them that makes them scared, not that it’s necessarily happening to others and they feel their pain or suffering. If empathy plays any sort of role in the observer, it is merely a trigger towards a feeling that actually acts as the deterrent.
Third, the fact that drug trafficking still occurs, despite the death penalty being in place, does not mean that the death penalty does not act as a deterrent. People will always steal, murder, etc. despite the punishments in place, but their activities may be less severe or less frequent as a result. Suggesting that because drug trafficking still occurs this means that therefore there is no deterring aspect in the punishment, is simply fallacious. She may as well argue against all forms of punishment if this is what she believes.
Finally, her claim that those who suggest the above should provide evidence for their claims prior to making them, is merely a game of switching the burden. There are several reasons why people believe that punishment can and does deter people from doing certain crimes. Many people don’t break traffic laws when in the presence of police, nor do they try to steal when people are looking, or murder someone in anger. Most people don’t do these things. Why? Because they know what happens if they get caught. The presence of people who risk their lives more to achieve criminal acts, does not necessitate that deterrence doesn’t work. What are her reasons for thinking otherwise and why does she insist that her detractors provide her with evidence when she doesn’t even follow her own standards? Hypocrisy never knew a better name.
And these two paragraphs are just the smaller examples of the rest of her argument.
Finally, as a Muslim Malay woman, you would think she would be party to her public religious convictions and the commandments of the faith, but rather she insists that anything in accordance with the Qur’an and Sunnah is ‘barbaric’:
How can we call ourselves moderate when after 56 years of never whipping women we now want to engage in public spectacles of such a barbaric nature?
One has to wonder how Marina, a so-called devout adherent to Islam, can think or utter the word ‘barbaric’ when reading the following ayah of the Qur’an:
The woman and the man guilty of illegal sexual intercourse, flog each of them with a hundred stripes. Let not pity withhold you in their case, in a punishment prescribed by Allah, if you believe in Allah and the Last Day. And let a party of the believers witness their punishment (Surah 24:2)
Never mind that the current punishment being inflicted on the supposed violators is a caning of only 6 stripes in the most unharmful manner, but the fact that she thinks that this is barbaric must have her reading the Qur’an in such disgust that its hard to believe she finds anything of Allah’s Word therein. But she calls herself a ‘moderate’, so this must mean that she believes that this was a punishment prescribed back then when people were more primitive (read, ‘less moral’ than herself and others) so it doesn’t apply to now in our more advanced, secular societies. Right? One has to wonder then what she thought of Prophet Muhammad (saws) and the companions. To suggest that such people were ‘barbarians’ makes Marina’s convictions questionable, to say in the least.
While I and many others are opposed to the canings on grounds that they are not considered part of the Sharia — when the punishment isn’t even equivalent to said standard, nor the questionable means by which the punished were prosecuted are being transparently laid out — and that since a caliphate has yet to be established that would allow for said punishments to be inflicted, in the very least these objections are in compliance with the Islamic way of life. In opposition, you have Marina, who seems to appreciate her secular values more than she does her faith, logic or women, minding not throwing all of them under the rug for her ‘moderate’ agenda.