'Censored' Mahathir daughter hits out

PUBLISHED : Friday, 10 March, 2006, 12:00am
UPDATED : Friday, 10 March, 2006, 12:00am

The outspoken activist daughter of former Malaysian leader Mahathir Mohamad has criticised what she described as censorship of one of her newspaper columns, which described the status of Malaysian women as akin to apartheid.

Her column in The Star newspaper had been due to be published on Wednesday, to coincide with International Women's Day. She said that while non-Muslim women enjoyed gender equality, human rights and legal protection, Muslim women had lost rights and status, were victims of discrimination by Muslim men and had become second-class citizens.

Marina Mahathir said the government, headed by Prime Minister Abdullah Badawi whose moderate Islamic policies have otherwise won praise, was 'gagging and binding Muslim women more and more each day for the sake of political expediency under the guise of religion'.

In an e-mail notice yesterday, Mahathir said The Star was refusing to publish the column because 'the powers-that-be think it is too tough on the government'.

'This is the first time in 15 years they have refused [to publish my column],' she said.

Mahathir published the article on the internet after The Star failed to run it.

A spokesman for the newspaper said that a 'delay' had happened and the column would be printed today.

Like many Muslim feminists, Mahathir is angry over a controversial Islamic Family Law bill - now put on hold - that would have allowed Muslim men to take multiple wives, makes divorce easy and gives men an automatic share of their wife's property.

'We are unique in that we actively legally discriminate against women who are arguably the majority in this country, Muslim women,' Mahathir wrote.

'Non-Muslim Malaysian women have benefited from more progressive laws over the years while the opposite has happened for Muslim women.'

Her father has been strongly critical of Mr Abdullah's 'save more, spend less' economic policies. Some critics said Mahathir was silent on the issue during her father's 22-year rule.

'She did not condemn the Malays-first policy that discriminates against non-Malays,' said one writer in an internet chat room.