Saturday, April 22, 2006

Malaysia's Morality Laws Won't Apply to Non-Muslims

Has the Malaysian government succumbed to the pressures of the people? If indeed the government has listened to the wishes of the people, well good for them, though in the first place the charade could have been completely avoided.

What of the Chinese couple, Kean Thong, 24, and Siow Ai Wei, 22, who had to face the consequences of the idiotic charge in the first place, and the dog and pony show of the justice system that went all the way to the nation's highest court?

Are they going to be compensated for the legal costs that they incurred in defending their right to be free from the moral police? What of the indignity, and the publicity that came with the court case?

What of the court's decision regarding the case? Is it to remain and become precedent for future similar cases?

And what of Kuala Lumpur City Hall's authority to enact laws to prosecute people for indecent public behaviour? Should that authority be revoked? Or should their authority be clearly defined, and what constitutes public indecency further clarified?

These are pertinent questions - questions that need answers instead of the glib response of the director-general of the Islamic Development Department ... a response that is much too late for Ooi Kean Thong, 24, and Siow Ai Wei, 22, who were the victims of the moral police and the Malaysian justice system.

KUALA LUMPUR, April 20, 2006 ( & News Agencies) – Non-Muslims caught kissing and hugging in public will not be punished under the morality laws, a senior Malaysian government official said on Thursday, April 20.

"We will take the Muslim only," Mustafa Bin Abdul Rahman, the director-general of the influential Islamic Development Department of Malaysia, told Agence France-Presse (AFP).

He said non-Muslims, even those caught with Muslim partners, would not face action over their indecent behavior.

A furor has broken out in Malaysia over its morality laws, envisaging persecution for people caught in indecent and disorderly behavior.

The Federal Court has ruled that Kuala Lumpur City Hall had the authority to enact by-laws to prosecute people for indecent public behavior.

It gave the magistrate hearing such cases the authority to decide if hugging and kissing constituted indecent behavior.

Muslim Malays comprise about 60 percent of Malaysia’s 26 million people, while ethnic Chinese and Indians - most of them Buddhists, Hindus and Christians - make up about 35 percent. The rest are indigenous people and Eurasians.

Only Muslims

Abdul Rahman said unmarried Muslims caught in indecent behavior will be hauled to religious courts.

"If there is a report of... a Muslim couple acting immorally in an isolated place, then the enforcement will go there," he said.

"If there is evidence the couple is not married and not related then the couple will be brought to the court under Shari`ah law."

The official stressed that unmarried Muslim couples were banned under Islamic teachings from acting "immorally" in secluded places.

Supporters of a Malaysian opposition party have demonstrated outside Kuala Lumpur's City Hall to protest the laws.

Former deputy premier Anwar Ibrahim has rebuked the laws, describing the religious authorities in Malaysia as "over-zealous".

Ibrahim, the founder of an Islamic youth organization, said the issue had been taken "too far".

"It is doing a disservice to the whole Muslim orientation, the moderate Muslim view," he said.

The Housing and Local Government Minister recently warned that a strict enforcement of the morality laws would have an adverse effect on tourism, a key foreign currency earner.

Malaysia offers the image of a model Muslim country, heading towards the status of developed nation with huge buildings, beautiful cities and a fast track economy.

Prime Minister Abdullah Ahmad Badawi launched on Friday, March 31, an ambitious development plan for Malaysia to become the first developed Muslim nation by 2020.

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