Zainah Anwar


“God cannot be God if God is unjust”

I always understood that the different treatment between me and my brother in the home was due to culture and to tradition,” she says, “never religion. But as an adult confronted with issues of domestic violence, polygamy, marital rape, obedience, and all forms of inequality and discrimination in the private and public sphere justified in the name of Islam, I was outraged.”(1)

A school teacher’s remark for little Zainah captures the personality and the environment in few words, “Too high spirited, too playful, too talkative, too naughty.”


Today, SIS areas of work have expanded to encompass larger issues of democracy, human rights and constitutionalism, as well as urging the observance of human rights principles and international treaties and conventions signed by the Malaysian Government. SIS then began to take public positions of critical importance in the face of attempts to prosecute Muslims attempting to leave Islam, and efforts to silence differing opinions in Islam.

Underlying these activities was the firm belief that, as a concerned group working towards a better society, SIS could not isolate itself from the larger human rights and democratic movements in the country. A movement for gender justice must necessarily be a part of the larger human rights movement, and vice versa. (3)

On March 7, 2014; the French government conferred Zainah with its highest distinction, Chevalier de la Légion d’Honneur (Knight in the Legion of Honour). The prestigious order was created in 1802 by Napoleon Bonaparte and rewards individuals for their distinguished merits and exemplary service.(4)

Zainah Anwar did not have a role model growing up but in her words, “I knew I didn’t want the life my mother has. I didn’t want to be a housewife because all she did was serve the family. If she had been born in another era, she would probably have gone very far. She reads all the time, was a member of St John’s and Perkim (the Malaysian Islamic Welfare Organisation). But her primary role was in the home.”(1)

This rings true for so many of us all over the world. Let’s recognize that irrespective the religion or community; limiting human rights is oppression in any language. Culture and tradition is not always right just because it is reinforced through history of blind loyalty.

It is okay to question!


5. Feature Image – sistersinislam twitter +

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