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Open Access Publications from the University of California

UCLA Pacific Basin Law Journal

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PBLJ focuses on a diverse range of legal and policy issues as they affect the rapidly developing economies of the Pacific Rim. Throughout its history, the journal has featured articles written by leading scholars and practitioners on topics including human rights law, constitutional law, comparative law, criminal law, international trade law, business and corporate law, and intellectual property law.

Volume 21, Issue 1, 2003


"Anti-God, Anti-Islam and Anti-Quran": Expanding the Range of Participants and Parameters in Discourse over Women's Rights and Islam in Malaysia

This article explores the social-political environment within which Islamic discourse in relation to human rights and duties takes place within Malaysia, with a focus on women's rights issues. Malaysia, as an acknowledged 'moderate' Muslim majority state, provides an instructive case study, particularly with its accession to the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW) in 1995, with reservations which were partially withdrawn in 1998. In 2001, the constitution was amended to directly prohibit gender discrimination. Despite these advancements, inegalitarian practices remain and are often justified by reference to Islamic values and culture. In recent years, robust public debate about Islam and women's rights, voiced from multiple perspectives, has surfaced as participants seek to influence the law and policy on women's issues. There is no uniform perspective on these issues and this article demonstrates the diversity of views expressed within Malaysia, informed by personal interviews the author conducted with various political leaders and representatives of local women's NGOs. It also demonstrates how robust internal discourse reveals the ambivalences and divergent views extant within the Muslim community about women's rights issues both on the global and national level. A shared internal consensus, facilitated by a participatory ethos, facilitates cross-cultural dialogue between the Islamic community and the international human rights community. This helps forge a stronger shared basis for human rights, towards the goal of promoting the legitimacy of universal human rights norms to local communities defined by religious affiliation.