Normala defends refusal to shake hands with men

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LABIS, Jan 22 — PAS’s Tenang by-election candidate Normala Sudirman sought to play down today Barisan Nasional’s (BN) attack against her, saying her refusal to shake hands with men is a petty issue.

The Labis PAS Muslimat chief also condemned MCA leaders for what she claimed as the Chinese party’s failure to understand her rights as a Muslim.

“I hope my opponent can be more mature. What is more important is our policy and the party’s commitment to the people,” Normala told The Malaysian Insider after the by-election nomination process today.

“We do not want to touch on personal issues or character assassinate, which I think does not reflect what we have been focusing on,” she said.

MCA president Datuk Seri Dr Chua Soi Lek was reported to have criticised Normala for her refusal to shake hands with men, saying that her practice was not acceptable to the Chinese community.

Many pious Muslims do not shake hands with mahram (unmarriageable kin), believing that the practice is prohibited in Islam.

PKR president Datuk Seri Dr Wan Azizah Wan Ismail, for example, wears gloves when shaking hands with men.

Today, Normala blamed Umno for what she claimed to be the Malay’s party failure to educate its Chinese partner on Islamic values.

“Most importantly, after 53 years of independence MCA should understand Islamic principles as it has been in Barisan Nasional together with Umno,” said the former teacher who resigned last month to enable her to contest.

“For me Umno and BN will continue harping on petty issues. Whatever we do or don’t do would be subjected to criticism.

“I personally sympathise with Soi Lek for his lack of understanding on Islam despite being a partner in BN for a very long time. It is Umno’s responsibility to educate its partners on the rights of Muslim individuals,” the 39-year-old said.

Normala also said she was ready to face more personal attacks from BN leaders, adding that PAS’s partners in Pakatan Rakyat (PR) would be more than willing to campaign together.

“For us, most importantly, we want to explain to our friends about the life of Muslim individuals. God willing, I am ready to face any lies coming from the opponent.

“The bigger problem is our focus on the people’s welfare, social, economy, many other issues,” she added.

Normala is contesting in what is seen as an uphill battle against BN’s Azahar Ibrahim, the former Rengit assistant district officer who resigned just days before the nomination.

The January 30 by-election was called following the death of Datuk Sulaiman Taha on December 17.

Sulaiman retained the Tenang state seat in Johor, Umno’s birthplace and political fortress, in the last general election after he defeated PAS’s Mohd Saim Siran by a majority of 2,492 votes.

The seat is situated within the Labis parliamentary constituency, a stronghold of Dr Chua and currently represented by his son Chua Tee Yong.

Another Labis state seat, Bekok, was also won by BN’s Tan Kok Hong with a majority of 1,944 votes.

BN currently controls 50 of the state assembly seats, while DAP has four and PAS, two.