Malaysia tells religious police not to copy Taliban

Religious authorities wanting to conduct raids will now have to obtain police approval and the raiding party must include a senior police officer.

This was decided by the Cabinet which is unhappy over the Way such raids were conducted recently.

The raids had drawn ire from various organisations, particularly women groups.

Minister in the Prime Minister’s Department Datuk Seri Mohamed Nazri Abdul Aziz said the Cabinet wanted the raids to be conducted in a more orderly manner. It also wanted to ensure there would be accountablility should the raids go wrong.

In this regard, he said, the Cabinet had told the 4B Youths Mat Skodeng squad that set up to spy on couples, to stop its activities.

Mohamed Nazri told reporters this after receiving at the Parliament lobby a memorandum on the issue from a group calling itself Malaysia ns Against Moral Policing.

The group is urging for a repeal of provisions in religious and municipal laws that they claim deny the people of their privacy, freedom of speech and expression.

For the moment, as we have not decided whether to repeal the provisions in the state enactments, the Cabinet wants such raids to be done with police approval, he said.

The approval would have to be applied from the district police chief.

Mohamed Nazri also said the Human Rights Caucus of the Malaysia n Parliament, which he heads, would meet on Monday to discuss the matter.

He said that the issue was a serious matter as Malaysia was a multiracial community.

We do not want Malaysia to turn into Taliban rule. If we don’t stop it, it may happen.

We are a multi-racial, multi-religious country and have to respect individual rights regardless of religion or creed.

“No one religion should dominate the private lives of Malaysia ns in general,” he said, adding that the memorandum, which he gave his signature to, contained strong reasons.

He also said many people were concerned over the raid by the Federal Territory Religious Department on 100 youths at a nightspot recently.

“This and various previous incidents mentioned are matters of serious concern among the MPs, especially the Human Rights Caucus,” he said.

The Malaysia ns Against Moral Policing comprises 51 groups, including Suaram and Sisters-in-Islam and opposition parties, and it has obtained over 200 signatures, including those of ministers and MPs, for its memorandum.

The memorandum also calls for the appointment of a committee to monitor the process of repealing the laws.

It wants the committee to have representation from women’s, human rights and civil society organisations, progressive religious scholars and constitutional experts.

The group also questioned the state’s role in defining and controlling the morality of its citizens and its use of punitive religious and municipal laws.

It said the detention of some 100 Muslim patrons by Federal Territory Religious Department (Jawi) officers for being at a nightclub recently and the use of Muslim youth to spy on other Muslims, was unprecedented.

“We are against the use of these state instruments, and the individuals and groups enlisted as their surrogates, to regulate morality.

How people dress and where, how and with whom they socialise are personal choices,” the memorandum said.

It also called for the strengthening of the Malaysia n pluralism and a stop to the divisive behaviour’s of getting people to spy on each other.

Some recent cases of alleged overzealousness of religious officers in conducting raids this year:

March 3 – In their biggest operation against Muslim transvestites, Taiping Religious Department enforcement officers inadvertently detained a non-Muslim, journalist Ravi Varma Nambiar, 41, who lodged a police report alleging abuse of power and brutality.

Feb 19 – The Mat Skodeng squad caught two couples for khalwat and subsequently, the setting up of the controversial peeping tom’s squad was discussed by the Umno Supreme Council and the Cabinet at their meetings.

Feb 9 – Actor-turned-fitness instructor Eezaq Farrouq Harahap, popularly known as Cico Rashid, said he and a friend were wrongfully detained by the Selangor Religious Department for an alleged khalwat offence at an apartment on Feb 6.

He said he was having dinner with his friend and her sister as well as her brother-in-law when the officers raided the apartment.