Wednesday, November 04, 2009

Female Muezzins In Bahrain

Outcry in Bahrain over Female Muezzins
Wednesday 04 November 2009
By Salman Dossari

Abu Dhabi, Asharq Al-Awsat- Bahrain was shocked to learn last week that Bahraini female citizens were now working as "muezzin" [person who calls for prayers].

This was revealed by the Ministry of Justice and Islamic Affairs, through official documents, to the effect that there are three female muezzins who are working in two different mosques in Bahrain. This has led a deputy in Bahrain's Parliament to threaten to question the Minister of Justice and Islamic Affairs, because he considers a woman working as a muezzin "a reprehensible innovation [bidah] that no Muslim has ever dared introduce before; so, how come that this is allowed to happen here in Bahrain by the ministry?"

In this respect, responding to a question asked in Parliament by the Salafi Deputy Sheikh Jasim al-Saidi, Minister of Justice and Islamic Affairs Sheikh Khalid Bin-Ali Al Khalifa, revealed the names of three women working as muezzins in mosques belonging to the Jafariyah [Twelvers; Shiite group] Religious Endowment Administration.

According to the minister's response, the first female "muezzin" is Mariam Hasan Ali. She works at the Sheikh Muhammad Mumin Mosque, which is one of the large mosques of the capital, Manama. The other two "muezzin" are Fawziyah Ali Hasan Rustum and Salwa Ahmad Sultan. They work at the Sheikh Darwish Mosque, in the area of Al-Diyah, near Al-Badi district, also in the capital Manama.

Contacted by Asharq Al-Awsat by telephone, Sheikh Jasim al-Saidi, who is a Salafi independent deputy in Parliament, said that he is surprised by the permission given by the Ministry of Justice and Islamic Affairs "to subvert the Islamic religion and its tenets by appointing women to the post of "Muezzin." He considered that the admission by the ministry that female muezzin are part of its official staff is "a shame on all of us in Bahrain."

Sheikh al-Saidi emphasized that "the issue has only one of two explanations: either the appointment to this job, which happens for the first time in the Arab and Islamic world, is merely formal and not genuine, or they were appointed as muezzin officially but without having to do this job, or they are indeed working as muezzin, and then this is a disaster, with the situation reaching such a level of laxity toward religion."

Al-Saidi stated that he is awaiting clarification from the Ministry of Justice and Islamic Affairs concerning the real function of the three women.

Calls by Asharq Al-Awsat to Jafariyah Religious Endowments Council in Bahrain were not immediately returned. As for Sheikh Jasim al-Saidi, he has asked the Ministry of Justice and Islamic Affairs to dismiss the female muezzins working in the two mosques in question. He stressed that a woman working as a muezzin is "a reprehensible innovation that no Muslim has ever dared introduce in the past." He pointed out that a woman working as muezzin is not permissible, "dangerous, and badly affects the reputation of Bahrainis in Islamic circles."

Al-Saidi threatened the minister of justice and Islamic affairs that he would question him in Parliament "if no rapid, immediate action is taken to correct this matter." He added that he was surprised by the answer given by the minister of justice and Islamic affairs to a question he had asked about a request for a full and detailed inventory of all the mosques, funeral sites, Husayniyat [Shiite mosques] and places of worship in Bahrain.

Al-Saidi also said that he is shocked by the presence of official documents proving that there are female muezzins who are performing this function.

He stated: "This is a dangerous, reprehensible innovation that no one in the world introduced before us. All the Islamic doctrines agree that it is impermissible for a woman to occupy this post, and therefore the question is: How dare the Jafariyah Religious Endowments Administration employ three women as muezzin? And, does the Imamate Shiite jurisprudence authorize women to perform the function of muezzin? How come that these women have continued to receive their salaries all throughout the previous period of time? This proves that there is clear administrative corruption at the Ministry of Justice and Islamic Affairs, and the minister is politically responsible for this."

When it is better to be big fish!

Here we go again. Those anti-Corruption guys are doing their jobs, blind colour (as claimed by that Minister in-charge) and nothing to do with politics (huh, I believe you sir like I believe pigs can fly to the moon).

Looking at the figures in the graft charges, nothing much compared to billions in certain infamous scandals or millions like that huge bungalow in Section 7, Shah Alam.

I do not how much we have spent on the MACC establishment. Or what are their KPIs. Since MACC is not reporting to the parliament, a lot of things are always "Yang mengikut arahan". No transparency. No accountability. No credibility and no real work done. If MACC is really independent, most of our cabinet ministers will be charged for salah kuasa and corruption (remember Anwar's corruption case?)

Billions or our hard-earned rakyat money have been wasted, exploited, robbed, siphoned and pocketed through various development or project scams. Billions more with the current leadership and so many loopholes of the weak system. There is no solution with the current bunch of leaders and systems.

MACC can catch all the small fishes in the sea of robbers, conmen, corrupted politicians and civil servants.....still, it is not justified in terms of its existence as corruption is already a culture. "Biar mati anak, jangan mati adat!"

Slow boat to catch big fish

, the action by the Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission has made the front page of every newspaper. Well done but are we serious about going after the big fish who have milked the government? The consolation that can be taken is that something is better than nothing but then there are some important questions that ought to be answered. Are we serious about fighting corruption, abuse and misuse of power and funds and moral decay? Do we continue making statement after statement expecting people to change? Do we go after those with soiled hands without fear or favour? Do we seriously want to see that taxpayers’ money is used in a transparent manner and that those responsible are accountable for their actions?

After years of exposing wrongdoings and commenting on the actions of several, one tends to believe that making money at taxpayers’ expense has become a way of life. Sometimes, you wonder whether it is worth the effort and tell yourself: Nothing will ever change. If you sense that this scribe is wallowing in self-pity and depression, you may be right. It is getting more and more frustrating reading and learning about wrongdoers who are still walking our streets, hoping to continue to exploit the perceived weaknesses in our system.

Such views are not based on hearsay or rumours. They are based on hard facts – documents. As you sit back and take stock of what had been written in the past, you will understand why this sense of hopelessness prevails. Sometimes this is translated into anger, most times despair.

Does this mean you give up and turn your attention and write "feel good" pieces and care a damn about what’s happening around you? This thought had crossed my mind several times, especially in the recent past. As you sit and re-visit the stories and the columns that had been written over the years, something tells you that all is lost.

So, today for good measure, I am taking a walk down memory lane to remind the powers-that-be that there are several outstanding wrongdoings which ought to be attended to. The list is a long one (forget the Port Klang Free Zone for a moment, though it will never be forgotten) and I do not want to go through the agony of digging into the archives and creating more heartache. Instead, these are issues that enjoy "top-of-the-mind" recall:

It is getting more and more frustrating reading and learning about wrongdoers who are still walking our streets, hoping to continue to exploit the perceived weaknesses in our system.

Former Tourism Minister Datuk Azalina Othman’s excess baggage as far as staffing was concerned. She had 20 staff which contravenes the Public Services Department (PSD)’s regulations limiting the appointments to only eight. It is also in defiance of a Treasury circular on cost-cutting and austerity. The minister’s office had three special officers, five political officers, one research officer, six information technology officers and five support staff. Some appointments were backdated to circumvent circulars from the PSD and the Treasury and there was no proper selection process as the posts were not advertised.

» The RM68 million disaster called Paya Indah Wetlands still brings anger when you discover that norms in business practices were not followed. There was only one signatory to cheques. Yet, the former CEO of the Malaysian Wetlands Foundation, "Dr" Muralee Menon, who was also the former adviser to the cabinet committee on sports, and former directors – Datuk Ahmad Talib and Nor Hisham Ismail – have remained silent.

» The globe-trotting VIP wives in Selangor still continue to flaunt their designer clothes and branded handbags despite their shenanigans being laid bare at a public inquiry. Is it not abuse of power?

» The theft of land meant for public amenities in Bandar Utama may have lapsed into a distant memory in the minds of many; but each time I drive past BU8 and the Tamil school in the vicinity, I am reminded of how political parties used their influence and clout to take away what rightly belonged to the people. Do these people have any conscience? They now make public statements as if they were God-sent to cure the ills of the people.

» The former state government acquired a large plot of land near Sri Damansara for a song although it was worth a small fortune. It was purportedly for a graveyard. The state then alienated the land to cronies of a politician, who in turn flogged it for millions to a third party, a typical Ali Baba operation.

» The National Sports Council which at one time or another had RM350 million in the bank is now unable to pay athletes. Does anyone bother to find out where the money went and on the extravagance of certain officials who defend themselves by saying: "Saya yang menurut perintah"?

» What about the abuses that have been highlighted in the auditor-general’s report every year? Has anyone been "hanged" for wrongdoings? May be, one or two ikan bilis, but what about the ikan yu and those who gave the go-ahead? They are being promoted to higher positions and together come the perks – state or national awards.

Dear readers, over the past few days, I have asked myself: Have I come to the end of the road? Do I say "enough is enough" and move on? I don’t know but I am sure that you can understand my despair, anger and frustration over the non-action. As I pen these last few words, the inevitable question is: Will we ever end up in the top 10 in Transparency International’s Corruption Perception Index?

I am no soothsayer or doomsayer. I am another journalist who is committed to seeing transparency and accountability at work. For the better part of my career, I have been doing just that. But having said that, all I can say is that nothing will ever change unless our leaders have the determination and political will to bring about a radical set of norms and morals to be emulated by all the citizens.

Despair and hopelessness have been bothering R. Nadeswaran for the past few days and he has decided to air his frustrations. He can be reached at: