Saturday, March 26, 2005

Moral Policing in Malaysia

Malaysia's Islamic government spends a good deal of time trying to restrain its more zealous officials from turning the country into a full-blown theocracy. Recently, the government has moved to curb "moral policing" by various state agencies, which employ bands of young Muslims to root out immoral activtity.

State Islamic departments have been told to seek permission from the police before launching raids to catch Muslims alleged to be committing immoral acts.

One state has disbanded a youth snoop squad that was told to spy on couples.

A coalition of human rights, labour and women's groups called on the government to stop the spread of moral policing.

Their protest was prompted in part by a raid in January by the Kuala Lumpur Islamic department on a fashionable nightclub.

Dozens of young Muslim women later claimed they had been harassed by religious officers asking intimate questions and requesting dates.

Not only are these moral squads invidious, but not all of their members are as morally pure as they'd like to suppose.

Meanwhile, Malaka's chief minister, Mohammed Ali Rustam has stood down a snoop squad he had instigated to monitor the behaviour of Muslim couples in the state.

The cabinet had ordered the unit be disbanded.

The 60-strong squad organised by the local 4B Youth Movement had already turned in a number of people to the religious authorities for kalwat, the offence of a man and a woman being alone together in private.

However, the suggestion that the squad's activities be extended to non-Muslims had caused considerable concern among Malaysia's religious minorities.

The squad's future had already been called into question by news that one of the youth movement's leaders had himself been found guilty of illegally entering into a polygamous marriage.

Of course, Malaysia's morality police don't hold a candle to Saudi Arabia's much-feared Commission for the Promotion of Virtue and Prevention of Vice.


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