Malaysia to Curb ‘Moral Policing’
News, March 26, 2005
By Jonathan Kent
KUALA LUMPUR—The Malaysian
government has moved to curb so-called moral policing following complaints
about state snooping into citizens’ private lives. 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.
The government has now decided that future raids will
have to be sanctioned and closely monitored by senior police officers.
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
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.
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