The relevant law-making bodies need to come up with laws which clearly define public indecency or else the perception is that Malaysia is moving towards Taliban type rule. What a disgrace to criminalise public kissing and hugging!
Friday, April 14, 2006
Malaysians protest against laws that make public kissing a crime
(AFP) - Malaysian activists protested at the capital's city hall against laws that make kissing and hugging in public a crime, saying it showed the "Islamisation" of the multicultural nation.
A dozen demonstrators led by the opposition Democratic Action Party's youth wing held hands and waved heart-shaped placards that read "You have the right to kiss" and "Not guilty of hugging" and a banner reading "No to moral policing".
The protest was touched off by a court's decision earlier this month to authorize indecency charges against a young couple accused of kissing and hugging in a park by Kuala Lumpur's iconic Twin Towers in August 2003.
Ooi Kean Thong, 24, and Siow Ai Wei, 22, claim they were slapped with a summons when they refused to pay bribes to two city hall officials, who have denied the claims.
"We want to send a message that it is inappropriate for local government to be the moral police," DAP youth wing deputy chief Chong Chieng Jen told AFP. "The thing about morality is that it differs among different races and religions."
"It defies the spirit of our constitution and also freedom of religion," he said. "If we do not check the trend now we are heading towards a real Islamic state, or going backwards to the medieval time."
The protesters said that while they opposed public indecency, the current law was too vague and liable to abuse and should not be enforced by local authorities.
"There should be a uniform law applicable throughout Malaysia stating clearly what amounts to indecency," they said in a statement.
The protesters accused the city authorities of applying Islamic or Shariah legal principles on both Muslims -- who make up some 60 percent of Malaysia's population -- and the non-Muslim Chinese and Indian communities.
"This is a manifestation of Islamisation of Malaysia without respecting the rights and freedom of the non-Muslims," they said.
The Federal Court ruled that city hall could pursue indecency charges against the ethnic Chinese couple, saying kissing and hugging was not the norm for Malaysians or other Asians and was only acceptable by Western moral standards.
Malaysia's Bar Council spoke out against the ruling, saying displays of affection are common here and that indecency charges should only be applied to maintain public order, and not because behaviour had offended individuals.
The couple are due to face the charges at city hall's court in June. If convicted, they could be fined up to 2000 ringgit (543 dollars) or jailed for up to a year or both.
Malaysia's government promotes a moderate version of Islam but the country has seen a growing influence of Islam over society in the past two decades.