Pluralist activist awarded
Yap Thiam Hien Award

Prominent pluralism campaigner Siti Musdah Mulia, 50, was awarded Wednesday the Yap Thiam Hien Award 2008 human rights award for her “courage and obstinacy” in pushing for pluralism, women’s rights in Islam, civil liberties and equal constitutional rights for all citizens.

The Yap Thiam Hien Award, named in honor of a Chinese-Indonesian human rights activist and former legislative member in 1955, is presented to various figures and institutions deemed of significance in promoting human rights.

Musdah was born on March 3, 1958, in Bone, South Sulawesi, and raised in a devout Islamic environment. She graduated from Makassar’s Alauddin State Islamic University in 1982, before moving to Jakarta’s Syarif Hidayatullah State Islamic University (UIN), where she was introduced to the ideas of contemporary Muslim scholar Harun Nasution.

Musdah was relatively unknown before 2004, when the Religious Affairs Ministry’s Gender Mainstreaming Team she headed published a counter legal draft criticizing the prevailing Islamic Law Compilation. The newly appointed Religious Affairs Minister Maftuh Basyuni annulled the counter draft in 2005, and Musdah was banned from “spreading her thoughts”.

Refused to be silenced, Musdah continued advocating women’s rights, as well as those of minority groups such as “deviant” Islamic sect Jamaah Ahmadiyah and homo-sexuals.

Musdah, now a lecturer at the UIN’s Koran Sciences Institute and Postgraduate Program, is the 13th recipient of the Yap Thiam Hien Award.

According to Antara, she was unable to receive the award personally as she was still away on haj.

Previous recipients include slain labor activist Marsinah (1993), human rights group Urban Poor Consortium (2000), disappeared poet-turned-activist Widji Tukul (2002) and Kompas senior reporter Maria Hartiningsih (2003).


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