MALAYSIANS KINI At the height of her career, G25 founder
and retired diplomat Noor Farida Ariffin was wearing three different hats for
Malaysia at the world’s legal capital - The Hague, Netherlands.
She was appointed as ambassador to The Hague in 2000 and
represented Malaysia as co-agent at the International Court of Justice in the
trials for claims on Pulau Batu Putih, as well as Sipadan and Ligitan.
This was aside from being the Malaysian permanent representative
to the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons, also based in The
Her journey with the judiciary, however, started with in 1971 when
she joined the Attorney-General’s Chambers.
She was a Sessions Court judge in 1988 when the government
seconded her to London for five years as the Commonwealth Secretariat’s
Director of the Women and Development Programme.
This was to be the turning point for her diplomatic career after
being appointed in 1993 to head Wisma Putra’s newly established Legal Division
of the Ministry.
Nowadays, Noor Farida shares her home with eight cats, while at
the same time continues to travel and offer legal consultancy services.
One of her eight cats, named Jasper, was a gift from a friend and
came along with her all the way from Holland.
In her own words, Noor Farida shares her life experiences that
eventually led to formation of G25.
I WAS BROUGHT UP IN TAIPING. I have six siblings - three boys, three girls. I went to
school at the Treacher Methodist school and I did my Form 6 at King Edwards
Science School. After that I went to Inns of Court and did my law degree in
During my time, we mixed freely. Until now I am still in touch
with my classmates of all races because we never looked at skin colour, we
never looked at religion.
We even had pyjama parties. We visited each other’s homes.
One thing about us Malaysians is that we are so respectful of each
I find that even to this day. Except that now Muslims are more
concerned about halal haram issues than they are about
I AM SINGLE BY CHOICE. Once you reach a certain stage, you get too independent to
want to share your life with somebody. To clutter up your life.
Of course during your youth you have all the relationships but it
never made me want to give up my singlehood.
In fact many of my friends who are in this line of work, people
doing civil society work, activists, many of them are single by choice. So it
is nothing unusual now.
You have other interests and you value your independence. That is
the main thing. If you have God to celebrate, causes to fight for… you lead an
interesting life. And you have financial independence as well.
You can travel when you like, as you like.
I TRAVEL EXTENSIVELY. I still go about twice a year to Europe because my family
has a house there. My family has a townhouse and my niece lives there.
My sister is in Australia, I have nieces, nephews and grand-nieces
in Australia. I will be visiting them next month.
So basically we are very cosmopolitan people, that is how it has
shaped my world view.
THROUGH IT ALL I REMAIN A DEVOUT MUSLIM. But people will always judge you on
whether you cover your hair or not and that is such a shame.
Islam in this country - and I have been talking to foreigners and
foreign diplomats - they say, our emphasis is more on rituals. More on form
rather than substance.
Many people, especially some of our religious authorities, have
forgotten that the main message of Islam is justice and mercy, and compassion.
We begin every prayer by invoking the name of Allah SWT the
merciful and most compassionate but you look at Kelantan’s proposal for public
caning in stadiums.
A stadium is for recreation and sports. It is not for punishment.
And why? Where is the emphasis on mercy and compassion?
I CONSIDER MYSELF A LIBERAL BUT I AM A FAITHFUL MUSLIM. I am a practising Muslim. I don’t just
pray five times a day, I pray more than that. I take my religious obligations
But the problem is, they just judge you by your exterior. I don’t
go around exposing my bosom and all that. I dress modestly, except that I don’t
wear the tudung. Which is a conscious decision.
But to them you are murtad, you are deviant.
THEY NEVER DEFINE WHAT IS A LIBERAL. What is a liberal? For us being liberal
means respecting other point of views. And being pluralists means respecting
people of other faiths.
I respect, for example a Christian, but that does not mean that I
believe in the Christian religion.
As a Muslim I believe that my religion is the truth. But let’s
just learn to respect each other’s differences. Basically it is all about
These people have such a distorted interpretation of the word
liberal and the word plural.
IT WAS AN INFORMED DECISION. I don't wear the headscarf because I have read enough and
I'm convinced it is not mandatory.
There are many views, except in this country, only one view
Through the Golden Age of Islam, differences of views, except on
matters of faith like the five pillars of Islam, were welcomed.
That is why we have the four mazhabs (school of thoughts).
Differences of views on minor things.
Just not on the five main pillars of faith. Those are matters
which cannot be questioned.
I AM VERY PROUD TO BE A FEMINIST. People who look down on feminists don’t
understand the meaning of the word. We are just making sure that women are not
To fight for what is right, for men or women, for me that is the
right thing to do because you have an innate sense of justice.
Even if men were abused, I would be very concerned because we also
fight for human rights.
To be a feminist is to fight for women’s human rights.
MOST PREJUDICES ARE BORNE OUT OF IGNORANCE. If people are racially prejudiced, it is
because they have never mixed with others. And because of basic insecurities,
they think only their race and their religion is perfect.
But if you were to mix with others, you will see that they are
just the same as you.
SNOOPING AND SPYING INTO PRIVATE SINS IS AGAINST THE AL-QURAN. I was a founding member of Sisters In
Islam. To us, Islam is a merciful religion. Islam is a religion that gave so
much rights to women at a time when Europe was still living in darkness.
And yet you have people accusing me of being murtad and a deviant
just because we (G25) question the administration of Islam and we are against
As I said, so much ignorance. What I discovered from this episode,
when I have been so maligned and defamed, is that a lot of Muslims in Malaysia
are ignorant about the religion.
WE AT G25 WILL CONTINUE TO SPEAK UP. What has struck me is that because our
composition is mainly very senior retired civil servants, we’ve got eight
former secretary-generals, eight former ambassadors, directors-general and also
members who are still working… people are emboldened to speak up.
People are saying that if G25 who are basically establishment
figures, if they can speak up, they too can speak up.
We are very perturbed at the manifestation of religious
intolerance in this country. At the breakdown of good governance in this
So its not just religious issues that we are focusing on but also
good governance, upholding the Federal Constitution, and reforms.