So you should have heard of Soraya M’s tragedy in Iran. Now we have our own internationally renowned version of the demonization of women in the case of Kartika. It is quite widely evident that, throughout history, wherever any form of religious fundamentalism begins to catch hold, women tend to become one of the first targets of such fanaticism.
You ever wonder what it is about fundamentalists that make them want to demolish schools for girls, stone women to death, keep them from voting, driving, or some such thing that the other half of the human race is seemingly permitted to do?
After years of pandering to these fundamentalists and exploiting religious doctrine, our politicians have all but turned over control of so much of our civil liberties to religious zealots that we’ve now written our own chapter on fundamentalism as we’ve arrived on the world stage in style: becoming notoriously renowned for allowing religious fundamentalists to infringe on our rights in ways we’d never imagined conceivable in so-called multiethnic Malaysia.
It was shocking indeed to see the PM actually suggesting that Kartika ought to appeal her sentence. What!? And since when do we see our PMs advising co-called convicted people on what to do? Indeed, we even had at least one minister in his cabinet actually express disbelieve that Kartika did not appeal the sentence against her.
Where, one might ask, is the criticism of the UMNO regime against the religiously self-righteous and fanatics who seem to find it convenient to pick on a mother because she might have had a beer or two or whatever? Of all the things one could say and express their displeasure about, these UMNO people come out to criticise not the fanatics but Kartika! And that too for not appealing her punishment! Imagine if our minister made such comments for other criminals? If the religious fanatics want to make a mockery of the nation's reputation, why blame Kartika? These politicians should be condemning the fanatics.
You truly don’t have to look too hard to see how much damage UMNO has done to our civil institutions by allowing these religious authorities to unleash their wrath. And is it really any wonder that these religious zealots seem more obsessed about canning a singular woman – much like some in other societies do with stoning women for some apparent shortcoming or another.
History is replete with examples where in the wake of religious fundamentalism, women’s rights have been the first to be squashed. Religious fundamentalism, stemming from not one but many different religions, essentially emphasizes a unique and specific interpretation of a religious text. Such an ideology claims to be the only true interpretation, and thus vehemently opposes any other, especially one with plural interpretation. Religious fundamentalists often use propaganda to impose their version on other members of their religion. Yet, at the heart of all varieties of religious fundamentalism is the patriarch as the central agent of ultimate control and decision-making in the family and outside. Among all these, women are made to follow strict codes of behaviour that essentially reduce her to a slave at home yet also elevate her to the moral guardian of honour.
Here is another quote from Warning Signs of Fundamentalisms worth keeping in mind:
Fundamentalist movements are political movements with religious, ethnic, and/or nationalist imperatives. They construct a single version of a collective identity as the only true, authentic and valid one, and use it to impose their power and authority. They usually claim to be the representatives of authentic tradition, and they speak against the corrupting influence of modernity and ‘the West’. However, fundamentalists are far from pre-modern. To promote their project, they use all modern technological means available, from the media to weaponry. Furthermore, the vision they conjure up is a constructed and selective vision, rather than a revival of something in the past. Since 2000 the popular appeal of fundamentalisms has been growing across the world and different communities.
Fundamentalists sure do love women – it is a time proven fact that they love to exert their superiority by targeting, belittling, humiliating, and persecuting women – all in order to supposedly prove their piousness.
It should come as no surprise to you that there have been countless Soraya M's and Kartika's through the ages. And, sadly, there will be more of such tragedies so long as politicians play into the hands of fundamentalists and sacrifice the rights of ordinary people.