Take action against those who make threats online

– Syerleena Abdul Rashid
The Malaysian Insider
21 March 2015

“I want to meet her too… I haven’t punched anyone in a long time… Who cares if anyone calls me a cuckold for hitting a woman… she should die.”

Above is one of the many comments targeted at Aisyah Tajuddin. I have one simple question to ask: does this comment enrage you? If it doesn’t, then you are misogynistic, which simply means you hate women. If you don’t understand what misogyny is and find the video anti-Islamic without even viewing the entire video, then that simply means you suffer from a deficit of intellectualism and that, my friend, can lead to destructive consequences.

The BFM video that sparked a mass hysteria of misplaced vitriol showcased the ugliness of the Malay/Muslim siege mentality. The video has since been taken down but the after-effects that continue to linger will forever haunt the rest of us. The numerous hate-filled threats on social media solidify the fact that online misogyny is equally disturbing and must be taken seriously. What makes these comments worse is the anonymity cyberspace provides for these cyber-bigots to troll around ruthlessly.

These comments also confirm the unforgiving attitudes some Malaysians have when it comes to sensitive topics, in particular, religion. Hudud has for quite some time now replaced the May 13 boogeyman and for some (Muslims and non-Muslims alike), the fear of not knowing exactly what hudud is about has created tension and distrust within our society. The hudud debate, or rather the lack of debate, has created an over-simplified argument for Malaysians: you are either for it or against it, end of discussion.

If a Malay Muslim were to raise a few questions such as how hudud would be implemented in a multi-ethnic, multi-religious country like Malaysia, overzealous critics would brand you an apostate and subject you to the worst online threats you can imagine. In this case, Aisyah Tajuddin has been made a scapegoat for these overzealous critics to vent their frustrations and she isn’t the only one. Nik Raina, Dyana Sofya and I – yours truly – have all been targets of online death threats and the subject of multiple grotesque rape fantasies.

The reason is simple: the unholy marriage between religiosity and the patriarchal system has allowed misogyny to manifest itself into a dreadfully real problem in modern society. Everyone knows that in a male-dominated world, women are just easy prey.

It doesn’t help that Malaysians have an increasingly awkward relationship with intellectualism. Most Malaysians are only too happy to have someone declare and dictate what society should believe in. The events that lead to the ridiculousness of shallow interpretations and taking things too literally are a result the system giving too much space for the anti-intellectuals to convey their brand of ideologies.

The threats made towards Aisyah and BFM all point to the dumbing down of our country. The hyper-politicisation (ie. the overzealous banter) and the hypo-politicisation (ie. political apathy of our young) only allow these fanatics to do as they please in this country.

The actual content of the video highlighted the thoughts that echo in the minds of most Malaysians: why are those in power focusing on hudud when pressing issues have not been dealt with properly? A survey conducted by Merdeka Center showed that a majority of people in Kelantan would rather have their elected leaders focus on the economy and recovery efforts.

It is most unfortunate that religion is often manipulated to conceal severe issues and to an extent, used to divert our attention. Most of us understand the situation a little bit better than some, but BFM only dared to highlight the truth and for some of us the truth can be too difficult to swallow.

That being said, the authorities must take stern action against those who instigate harm and violence towards Aisyah. These evil comments can be found publicly on various social media sites and must be considered seditiously harmful in nature. – March 21, 2015.

* Syerleena Abdul Rashid is DAP Wanita Bukit Bendera political education director.

  1. #1 by Noble House on Sunday, 22 March 2015 - 1:29 am

    There are no easy answers to online bullying of women. Needless to say, those mentioned here are far from alone. It increasingly seems that any woman who expresses strong opinions online faces abuse and threats. Does a jerk deserve to possess anything of worth since he can successfully hide his shame?

    Whatever happened to women’s liberation?

    • #2 by cemerlang on Sunday, 22 March 2015 - 9:26 am

      I think you have to know how to manage a digital world. You have to strike a balance together with the real world. On part of the world, women are trying to be liberalised. Middle East women wanting to drive a car. But on another part of the world, women are choosing to go back to the old world where you have no empowerment.

  2. #3 by good coolie on Monday, 23 March 2015 - 1:02 pm

    Death threats and threats to assault sexually, if repeated every now and then, would acquire a sinister life of their own. It is high time the police get and punish at least one or two of the worst offenders.

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