Wives: Be Better Than Prostitutes

BY SIMONE ERASMUS-LAM
Jun 22, 2011
*Special to asia!

Or to be more accurate, be better than an “elite” prostitute, says Malaysia’s newly formed Obedient Wives Club.

1005 Photo: Jonathan McIntosh

At the Selangor head office of Malaysia’s Obedient Wives Club (OWC), a large bed takes centre stage. Adorned with red velvet, it serves as a visual reminder to all who enter that the teachings of Islam apparently call for women to serve their husbands’ sexual needs.

Becoming “first-class prostitutes” is the role of the obedient Muslim wife, according to its vice-president, woman physician Rohaya Mohamad. 

“A good or religious wife should also be good in bed,” she told reporters at the launch of the club's Malaysian chapter. “A man married to a woman who is as good as or better than a prostitute in bed has no reason to stray.”

She further added that fulfilling husbands’ sexual needs enhanced the “protection of the family institution”, curbing social ills like “prostitution, domestic violence, human trafficking and abandoned babies”.

The club – staffed by former members of the banned Al-Arqam group and overseen by Global Ikhwan Sdn Bhd – follows the set-up in August 2009 of the Polygamy Club by members of the same corporation. The company counts among its businesses pharmacies, cafes, supermarkets and a chicken-processing plant, all providing funding to its club activities, including the launch of OWC which saw a 1,000-strong guest list dining at an exclusive golf club.

Despite its claim that club teachings would help Muslim women gain “entry into heaven”, criticism from Muslim politicians and leaders has been significant. Malaysian Minister for Women’s Affairs Shahrizat Abdul Jalil has accused the club of giving Islam and Malaysia “a bad name”. And according to Bernama.com report, Kelantan mufti Datuk Mohamad Shukri Mohamad has slammed the group’s “first-class prostitute” allusion, saying that it was inappropriate as a prostitute was paid for her services, while an obedient wife was “fulfilling religious obligations”.

The club later clarified its stance, saying it meant prostitutes who were ‘elite’, adding “Our wives provide men with top-level service.”

The response on the Web has gained momentum on social networking sites like Facebook. A group called "We do not want sexist nonsense from Global Ikhwan" has enrolled 5,632 members at the time of writing. One male Muslim member, Amirul Aftar, wrote: "I do not want a wife to submit to my every beck and call. I want a wife who understands me."

Said Muslim American blogger Ana, who details her experiences being the first of two wives at polygamy411.com, “sex isn’t the only reason” for men’s straying

1006 “The whole concept... is an affront to women and Islam. You teach one wife how to be an expert in sexually pleasing her husband [but] what’s to prevent him from going out and getting three more? ... Sex isn’t the only reason a man seek out other women.”

Another blogger described the club’s goals as a reflection of culture, and far from “Islamic”.

Malaysian-Muslim blogger Naziehah said, “Malaysian culture still hold[s] on very strongly to the patriarchal idea of family and society...This ideology could not be any farther from what they claim as ‘Islamic’. The Prophet regards [his wives] highly as partners in the marriage.”

Barred from the state of Johor, OWC has moved across the causeway and expressed interest in setting up a branch in the island city-state of Singapore, where Muslims form 14.9% of its population.

Seventy-year-old literature professor Dalam Zaini has plans to set up a local arm of the OWC. This would be followed by the establishment of a Jakarta chapter on June 19.

The move has sparked immediate criticism from Singapore women’s affairs advocacy, AWARE (Association for Women’s Action and Research). In a statement posted on its website, Vice President Halijah Mohamed called for a more accurate representation of Islamic beliefs:

“It is our view that the Club’s call for women to become ‘obedient wives’ distorts the concept of nusyuz or disobedience, which applies to both women and men. The OWC is a misrepresentation of the teachings of Islam, which enjoins women and men to conduct their marriages on the basis of mutual co-operation.”

Likewise, Singapore’s Association of Young Muslim Women (PPIS) described the aims of the OWC as “simplistic”.

“The aim of the OWC, who wants to teach women to obey and please her husband in the room to avoid social ills, is too simplistic... The cause of divorce is not simply the lack of sex between husband and wife, but other issues such as communication problems, lack of trust between husband and wife, matters in regards to in-laws, financial and maintenance problems and abuse,” said Maznah Masop, the organisation’s chief executive officer.

Simone ErasmusWhen she isn't writing children's storybooks or expounding on food, Simone can be found in the kitchen, concocting fiery curries or bravely attempting layers of genoise. She has written for The Business Times Singapore, and also contributed to research in arts and culture across the region at the National University of Singapore. She is currently writing a series of books for preschoolers, to be published soon to the iPhone and iPad.

Contact Simone