18 imagesExperts and medical professionals in Malaysia assert that female circumcision, also referred to as female genital mutilation, has been gaining in popularity over the years. According to recent studies, the practice is widespread throughout the country, with some estimating that up to 90% of Muslim women have been circumcised - a phenomenon many say is linked to an increase in Islamic conservatism in otherwise moderate Malaysia. Female circumcision in the Southeast Asian country is less extensive than in other parts of the world, and usually involves the cutting off of the highest part of the clitoral hood and foreskin or a pin prick. It is performed on very young girls, increasingly in private clinics, as opposed to at home with the assistance of a traditional circumcision practitioner. Although the World Health Organziation described any form of female genital mutilation as harmful to women and girls, Malaysia has no laws banning female circumcision. Quite the opposite. In 2009, the Malaysian Islamic Council passed a fatwa that made it a religious obligation. And in 2012, the Ministry of Health proposed guidelines to reclassify and allow female circumcision as a medical practice. Most Muslim women in the country believe female circumcision is “wajib” - mandatory in Islam. Aside from being a religious requirement, many think it “protects” women from pre-marital sex as it is meant to decrease their sex drive.
33 imagesAlthough polygamy is legal in Malaysia, it is rarely practiced in the open or with the knowledge and approval of all the wives involved in such a relationship. However, one company in the country - Global Ikhwan - only employs women, who view polygamy as the integral element of “the Islamic way of life.” Global Ikhwan is a Malaysia-based multinational company associated with the banned Al-Arqam religious sect, whose founder Ashaari Mohammad was once held under the Internal Security Act. The enterprise, which employs 4,000 people worldwide through its complicated network of subsidiaries, operates restaurants, clothing shops, noodle factories and health clinics - just to name a few. It also runs its own schools, care homes and rehabilitation centres. Since the banning of the sect in 1994, some activities funded by the company have attracted widespread media attention and criticism. In 2012 for example, the female employees of Global Ikhwan established the Obedient Wives Club - a move seen by the authorities as an attempt to revive the sect. The Club encouraged women to act “like first class whores” in order to keep their husbands from straying. Most of the company employees are the descendants of the founders and first members of the Al-Arqam sect. However, the group also attracts women from outside the original movement - like the Australia-educated Azlina Jamaluddin, who joined Global Ikhwan in 2001. We spent two weeks following the female employees of Global Ikhwan to try and understand their interpretation of the “Islamic way of life.” We propose a 1,500 to 2,000 word article, with accompanying photos, about these women showing their role in the company, their motivation to join it and their outlook on polygamy. The article will feature interviews with the company CEO and his four wives, the organiser of Obedient Wives Club, Azlina Jamaluddin and an anonymous woman, who wants to join the company but is forbidden to do so by her husband.
30 imagesOver a million Hindus gather every year at various temples nationwide to celebrate Thaipusam. The exact date of this important Hindu event is based on the full moon day in the month of Thai (January/February) in the Hindu calendar. Thaipusam is a celebration dedicated to the Hindu deity Lord Murugan (youngest son of Shiva and his wife Parvati). The celebrations take place on a grand scale at the Batu Caves (Sri Subramaniar Swamy Temple) just outside of Kuala Lumpur.