A female legislator from Malaysia was taken to the police station and questioned for remarks she made challenging a sermon given by the Selangor Islamic Department’s (Jais) that women must cover up to avoid being raped.
Chong Eng, who sits on the Penang State Legislative Assembly and is a member of the secular Democratic Action Party, said her remarks were not intended to criticize or insult Islam. "I was not trying to question the religion or its teaching,” she said. “I merely wanted to highlight that rape is a premeditated crime. Women covering themselves does not prevent rape. Studies have shown that,” she said.
"Sadly, Jais’ sermon is misinformed, irresponsible, disrespectful and smacks of male bias,” she added.
Chong said the message of the sermon “does nothing to help female victims of sexual assault and abuse. It shifts the blame and responsibility in preventing sexual crimes onto victims, instead of the perpetrators."
The controversy began when the Inspector-General of Police Tan Sri Khalid Abu Bakar tweeted that Chong will be investigated under Section 298 of the Penal Code which forbids any utterance of words that have the deliberate intention to wound the religious feelings of any person.
Five police reports were subsequently filed against her by non-governmental organizations charging that she had questioned Islam and its teachings.
In a statement to the press, Mohamed Hafiz Mohamed Nordin, the chairman of Pembela, one of the NGO’s, lashed out against Chong, calling her an “ignorant racist.”
Hafiz further pushed Malaysia’s attorney general to prosecute Chong under the penal code for her “big mouth.”
Hafiz charged that Chong and her fellow Democratic Action Party members were becoming bolder in their rudeness towards Muslims and their criticism of Islam. He further slammed Chong, asking “When did Chong Eng start becoming so diligent in hearing Friday sermons?”
Speaking to the Malaysian Insider, Chong, a former member of parliament, said she was surprised at the reaction to her words.
"I was trying to make my point about rape being a crime that is premeditated by the culprits, not a mere reaction to how a woman dresses. In rape cases, the victims are vulnerable and cannot defend themselves,” she said, adding, “There have been so many cases of children falling victim to rapists and in these cases, the victims are not even fully developed."
Chong, who is also the chairwoman of the Penang Women’s Development Corporation, is not the first opposition politician to be questioned over public statements.
“Many politicians, like Teresa Kok and others from my party, have been called up to have their statements recorded and probed over various matters. I am ready to face this. I will cooperate fully," she said.
Chong was accompanied to the police station by her four lawyers as well as a number of fellow legislators and local councilors. She reiterated that she was not criticizing Islam or the practice of tutup aurat, or “covering up.
Although other than the original tweet from the inspector-general of the police, Chong was not informed as to which article of the penal code she is being suspected of breaking.
The interrogation consisted of questions relating to her background as well as five questions about her statements, according to Chong.