By Mariam Mokhtar
Aug 18, 2014
The people who doubt Dr Wan Azizah Wan Ismail’s suitability as Selangor menteri besar (MB) and who claim that Malaysia is not ready to accept a woman to govern either the state, or the nation, are wrong. Step forward, the self-appointed ‘First Lady of Malaysia’ (FLOM), Rosmah Mansor.
In the past, many people, especially those from Umno Baru, despised the FLOM because they believe that she was masquerading as the FLOM when she was really the prime minister. Najib Abdul Razak, they said, is her proxy. So, are the critics of Wan Azizah afraid that the top echelons of political power will become too crowded with women? So, who are the groups which are sabotaging Wan Azizah?
Many people claim they want change, but when faced with opportunity for change, which is to have Wan Azizah as the MB, they develop cold feet. They fear uncharted waters. Dr Wan Azizah is not unfit to be MB, but Malaysians are afraid of change.
The trouble also lies with the indecisive politicians, in Umno Baru, BN, Pakatan and PAS, and the conservative people who want to retain our patriarchal society.
The people who currently hold the reins of power know that when Wan Azizah turns the country around, they will be in trouble. They know they will lose power, status and wealth, and be punished for their past crimes.
The men who fear a woman at the top are probably afraid that a woman will show up their weaknesses.
The rakyat is fed up with the current administration which puts in minimal effort to help uplift the lives of women. A few years ago, Najib nominated himself as the women, family and community development minister but failed to bring any meaningful changes for Malaysian women.
Najib could not even force himself to sack his predecessor for her role in the National Feedlot Corporation (NFC) scandal. Was he afraid of what she could do to him? An honest person can never be conned. Likewise, a person who has nothing to hide does not fear the skeletons tumbling out of his closet.
Malaysians want something done about the many crimes against women – the gang rapes, the child marriages, the increase in domestic violence, the abuse of maids, sometimes by women themselves, women being infected by HIV/Aids by their husbands, women who are abandoned by their polygamous husbands, the abandoned babies and the single mothers with no lifeline.
Why are Malaysian men, principally Malay men, averse to women holding senior and important roles in society, especially in politics?
Are they afraid that women in power might behave like the wife who has discovered her husband’s cheating and will curtail both his nocturnal and extracurricular activities? Will the Malay men fear that Wan Azizah may force a complete overhaul of the syariah law, in Malaysia, to gain more protection to Malay women?
‘Priority to her husband’s needs’?
Do Malay men have the same opinion as the vice-president of the Obedient Wives’ Club (OWC), Rohaya Mohamad (left), who in 2011 said that women should be “high class whores in bed” to prevent their husbands from straying. Perkasa’s Ibrahim Ali certainly thinks so. He said, “From a Muslim perspective, the wife has to drop all of this (cooking, etc). She must give priority to her husband’s needs.”
If only Rohaya realised the struggles of Malayan fathers, grandfathers and great-grandfathers, who in the early 1900s, valued education. They fought for the right of education for their daughters. They did not think that to become whores was the full extent of an education. They wanted to empower their daughters.
The trouble with Wan Azizah is that compared with other Umno Baru women, she is educated, well-travelled, sophisticated and squeaky clean; but that does not stop people from making up lies about her, like former PKR Youth secretary Lokman Nor Adam, who jumped like a frog to Umno Baru and defamed Wan Azizah with claims that she led an extravagant lifestyle and had a penchant for expensive suits.
Around the world, there are women who had to take charge of multi-million dollar enterprises when their husbands died. These women, who had previously not known how to pay an electricity bill, were able to make their companies more successful.
If they did it, why can’t Wan Azizah be MB? Many of her detractors claim that she lacks experience, but is this really such an impediment? She will have an army of advisers, including economists, lawyers, security experts, bankers, academics and industrialists to assist her.
Wan Azizah may not be good at ‘investing’ like a former Umno Baru politician, who corralled public funds to secure the purchase of many luxury condominiums. Wan Azizah may not have the financial wizardry of one Umno Baru wife, who is able to purchase multi-million ringgit jewels and handbags, because she began saving when she was a teenager.
PAS acted like a dithering adolescent with its wishy-washy endorsement of Wan Azizah. They must learn that one can be committed to democracy and equality, and still be a true Muslim.
The opposition to Wan Azizah is not because of her sex, her educational background, or that she is Anwar’s wife. She could be perfect in every way, but her detractors will always be able to find a reason for her unsuitability.
The only reason people oppose Wan Azizah is that they do not want the floodgates to be opened, for the empowerment of women. They fear the moment when Malaysians discover that Malaysian women are as good as, or better than, men, at ruling, promoting justice and equality, ensuring peace and harmony, and providing opportunities for all.
MARIAM MOKHTAR is a defender of the truth, the admiral-general of the Green Bean Army and president of the Perak Liberation Organisation (PLO).