One of Singapore’s mainstream newspapers has come under fire for running a column by a conservative Muslim cleric that advises men on how to deal with a stubborn wife by beating her.
“How to deal with stubborn wives,” the original column in the main Malay language paper, Berita Harian, by Ustaz Mohammad Zaid Isahak also recommended gentle reasoning or giving a wife the cold shoulder for a couple of days.
But the last resort method of meting out physical punishment without leaving a visible mark sparked an outcry on social media and from senior politicians, reported Coconuts Singapore.
Muhammad Faisal Ibrahim, Parliamentary Secretary for the Ministry of Social and Family Development, said he had been “very concerned” when he read the article.
“We do not condone spousal abuse or violence in any form, whether within or outside the family context,” he said.
“I don’t read Malay, but have seen Malay-speaking friends sharing this with horror and disgust, gobsmacked that a mainstream daily published it,” said Singaporean activist and editor Kirsten Han on Twitter, next to a screenshot of the column.
The outraged reaction prompted Berita Harian and the cleric who wrote the column to issue clarifications that they did not endorse spousal abuse.
Ustaz Mohammad Zaid, the executive Imam of Al-Mawaddah Mosque, said that the quote he included in his feature was not a licence to beat up spouses and should be interpreted in the modern context.
“As a Muslim, it is best that we follow Prophet Muhammad’s example in caring for the family with the utmost compassion,” he said.
Irwan Hadi, the head of the Office of the Mufti, which offers legal advice on religious matters, said that the quote about beating had been misinterpreted and was only intended for men to express “displeasure and anger.”