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‘Listen, she raised her middle finger’

KUALA LUMPUR: Suara Wanita 1Malaysia (SW1M) chief Sharifah Zohra Jabeen Syed Shah Miskin, who shot to notoriety last month over her verbal brawl with student KS Bawani, claims the latter made a rude gesture and this was videotaped.
“Bawani showed me the middle finger and walked out of the hall alone,” she told FMT last night.
“The students applauded me. What does this say?”
She said SW1M videotaped the entire session of the Dec 8 forum at Universiti Utara Malaysia (UUM) and was planning to release the recording soon.
Netizens have seen the portion of the session where Sharifah appears to be attacking Bawani instead of countering her argument for free education. The video was first uploaded to YouTube under the title “Forum Suara Mahasiswa Part 4”. It quickly went viral, especially on Facebook.
At the height of the controversy, the vast majority of netizens hailed Bawani as a hero and condemned Sharifah as a villain.
The video shows the SW1M chief speaking in a tone supportive of Barisan Nasional and its policies, but even establishment figures have been critical of her. Umno Youth leader Khairy Jamaluddin has tried to distance his party from her and the Deputy Minister of Higher Education, Saifuddin Abdullah, has described her demeanour as “condescending and patronising”.
Subsequently, Sharifah issued a statement saying she forgave Bawani and stressing that she was neither contemptuous of university students nor against their exercise of free speech. She also apologised to UUM.

‘I was calm’
Sharifah told FMT her critics failed to realize that she allowed Bawani to express herself even though it was not a question and answer session.
“Did I shout at her, or get physical with her? No, I didn’t. I only said ‘Listen, listen’ and ‘Let me speak’ several times. And yet she still went on and on even after I took away the microphone. She only stopped after the rest of the panelists told her that they had received the point that she had raised.
“People fail to see that I was calm when I tried to stop her from talking.”
According to Sharifah, the incident took place at about 2.30pm and the 2,000-odd students in the hall were hungry. Furthermore, a lucky draw session was due to start. The programme was scheduled to end at 3.30pm.
She said the students would probably have walked out of the hall if her behaviour had been as bad as her critics had alleged.
“Students these days are very vocal and they would have left the hall, but they did not.”

This is why we have SPCA
She compared Bawani unfavourably to two other students who raised questions during the session.
“The two other students asked three questions each and approached issues professionally, unlike Bawani,” she said.
Sharifah also explained her statement about animals having problems, a point that her critics have often raised in trying to ridicule her.
“Every single being made by God has problems,” she said. “I gave an analogy using animals. Of course, animals have problems. That is why you have the SPCA.”
On Bawani’s arguments in favour of free education, she said her answer lay in Bawani’s own statement.
“She quoted socialist countries like Cuba providing free education while failing in their economy. We do not want our country to fail economically. That is why we have a national higher education loan scheme where students pay 5% over a period of 30 years.”

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