IRF Director Accused of Sexual Harassment Claims to Be Victimised

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Local civil society organisations say they are standing in solidarity with all sexual harassment survivors and that they are very concerned about the allegations.

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The Islamic Renaissance Front (IRF) director accused of sexual harassment by the think tank’s former members said he is a victim of a “concerted effort” to tarnish his name.

The director, whose statement has already been recorded by the police, said he welcomes the investigation since it would be an opportunity for him to clear his name.

He also added that he will take appropriate legal action to deal with the matter.

“Since there appears to be a police report on the matter, I cannot comment on this, but I welcome any investigation because it will be an opportunity for me to clear my name,” the director said through a text message.

He was responding to Malaysiakini’s request for comments on a police report lodged against him for alleged sexual assault.

Following the accusations, more than 30 local civil society organisations (CSO) under a coalition called CSO Platform for Reform, today said they are standing in solidarity with all sexual harassment survivors.

The groups said they are very concerned about the allegations and affirmed their zero tolerance of sexual harassment at the workplace.

“It could be imputed that organisations which knowingly allow or tolerate sexual harassment, including by failing to take immediate action, are, in fact, condoning or deemed complicit in allowing the perpetuation of this culture of harassment and violence.

“This is a watershed moment for us to transform organisational culture, take a stand in solidarity, provide the necessary platform for all those who do come forward and break the silence so that perpetrators are held to account,” said the groups.

Yesterday, Malay Mail quoted three former members about the sexual harassment they allegedly faced from one of the think tank’s directors, following a call by women’s rights groups for an independent investigation into these allegations.

One of the accusers had lodged the above-mentioned police report.

Formed in 2009, IRF describes itself as a movement to empower youth and promote Muslim intellectual discourse, and has advanced local discourse involving Islam and the enforcement of Shariah laws in Malaysia through its events, talks and commentaries.

The groups had also pledged to ensure that all of them have an effective sexual harassment policy in place, while committing towards creating a safe and conducive working environment for all in their respective organisations and within the larger movement.

They also reiterated the call by the Joint Action Group for Gender Equality (JAG) for these allegations to be taken seriously and for an independent investigation to be initiated by IRF and necessary action taken if the alleged perpetrator is found guilty.

“The findings from said investigation, on the other hand, should be made public by IRF in the interest of transparency and due process,” they said.

They also urged for quick and fair investigation when there is knowledge of such misconduct, even without any written or formal complaint, in addition to measures to prevent retaliation and any recurrence of the incidents.

Malay Mail also spoke with four other activists involved with IRF over the past eight years, and three admitted hearing rumours and complaints of sexual impropriety during their time with the think tank, including two specific instances that cannot be verified yet.

No other police reports have been lodged against the alleged perpetrator.

Yesterday, the police said a 56-year-old activist and NGO leader had been apprehended for questioning in relation to a report lodged against him for alleged sexual harassment that happened in November last year.

Kuala Lumpur police chief Commissioner Datuk Seri Mazlan Lazim, through a brief statement, confirmed the arrest. The director has since been released on bail.

The case is being investigated under Section 354 of the Penal Code for assault or use of criminal force to a person with intent to outrage modesty.

The civil society organisations concerned are:

  1. Suara Rakyat Malaysia (Suaram)
  2. Pusat Komas
  3. Agora Society Malaysia
  4. Association of Women Lawyers (AWL)
  5. Beyond Borders Malaysia
  6. Centre for Independent Journalism (CIJ)
  7. Centre to Combat Corruption & Cronyism (C4 Centre)
  8. Community Women and Workers Network (CWWN)
  9. EMPOWER Malaysia
  10. ENGAGE
  11. Freedom Film Network (FFN)
  12. IMAN Research
  13. Justice for Sisters
  14. Kesatuan Pekerja Swasta Sokongan Hospital Kerajaan
  15. KRYSS Network
  16. Kuala Lumpur and Selangor Chinese Assembly Hall (KLSCAH)
  17. KLSCAH Women Section
  18. North South Initiative (NSI)
  19. Our Journey
  20. Parti Sosialis Malaysia (PSM)
  21. Pergerakan Tenaga Akademik Malaysia (Gerak)
  22. Persatuan Aliran Kesedaran Negara
  23. Persatuan Komuniti Prihatin Selangor & KL (Prihatin)
  24. Persatuan Penduduk Galing Besar Kuantan
  25. Persatuan Promosi Hak Asasi Manusia (Proham)
  26. Persatuan Sahabat Wanita Selangor (PSWS)
  27. Pertubuhan Solidariti Hijau Kuantan
  28. PROS Sabah
  29. Society for Equality, Respect And Trust for All Sabah (Serata)
  30. Speak Up Malaysia
  31. Student Unity Front UKM
  32. The Coalition for Clean and Fair Elections (Bersih 2.0)
  33. Women’s Aid Organisation (WAO)