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Thinking Liberally

Published: Tuesday January 20, 2015 MYT 12:00:00 AM
Updated: Tuesday January 20, 2015 MYT 6:57:28 AM

Religious policing gone awry

If you are an honest man booking your family into a budget hotel, you better bring evidence that you are married. You never know.

USUALLY on the eve of Christmas some of us would be hoping for Santa Claus to come into our houses bringing gifts.

But I had a very different experience during the last Christmas Eve.

I was invited by Dr Mujahid Yusuf Rawa, PAS Member of Parliament for Parit Buntar, to speak at an event in his constituency on the evening of Dec 24.

Since I was planning to balik kampung to Perlis during the school holidays anyway, I duly accepted the invitation.

I took my mother and two of my daughters with me. Dr Mujahid was kind enough to book rooms for me at a hotel in the Parit Buntar town.

The event started at around 8.30pm. It was quite a fun panel discussion.

Joining me and Dr Mujahid was YB Liew Chin Tong, DAP MP for Kluang, Johor.

In the audience there were a few people associated with Pasma, the group within PAS that wants the party to show greater commitment towards the Pakatan Rakyat coalition.

Their participation certainly made the event livelier.

The event finished at around midnight and I went to my room soon after.

I shared a room with my mother, while my two daughters were in another room.

At around 3.15am, I was rudely woken up by very loud banging on my door.

The banging was so loud, I thought there was an emergency that demanded us to vacate the hotel immediately.

Without thinking much, I opened the door, but was shocked to see a group of probably six or seven men, dressed in black, standing there.

One of them introduced himself as an officer from the Islamic religious department.

He wanted to come into my room to see “what is happening”.

He showed me an identity card.

But it was too dark for me to read the card properly, and, my eyes were still half shut anyway.

I asked if he had a warrant or any kind of letter of authority to invade my privacy at such a ridiculous time in the morning.

The officer said they do not need one because they just wanted to have a look.

The tone of his voice was actually quite polite.

He kept saying “Saya minta maaf sebab mengganggu (I am sorry to disturb)” as he insisted to come in.

But his body language was intimidating.

He stood right in front of me, aggressively leaning into the room, as if suggesting that there is no way I could say “no” to him.

The other men standing behind him made me feel more threatened.

It was as if they have trapped me and I could not do anything but to abide by their instructions.

I refused to let them in. I told them that my mother is an elderly lady who usually wears the headscarf.

Since she was asleep, of course she wouldn’t have it on.

So it would be completely wrong, especially from an Islamic point of view, for them to come in and “have a look”.

My biggest worry, however, was if she woke up while the men were in the room.

Imagine the shock she would have if she got up from sleep to see six men wearing black standing in front of her bed.

At her age and with all the health conditions, it could have turned into something really bad.

But the men stood their ground and insisted on coming in.

I started to get worried about disturbing other hotel guests.

It would be very bad if someone were to snap a photo of me wearing my sleeping gear.

In this age of social media, believe me, no one should be subjected to the torture of seeing a picture like that.

They were clearly not going anywhere unless I allowed them to do what they want ed to do.

Eventually I felt I had no choice but to allow one of them in.

He stepped into the room, saw my mother still asleep on the bed, and looked around.

Having realised that there was nothing exciting to see, he and the rest of the men left.

It was only at that time that I realised what had happened.

The Perak Islamic religious department raided my room, probably because they suspected I was there with someone I shouldn’t be with.

I had just been raided for “khalwat”!

I wonder how many others have fallen victim to the antics of these officials.

They invade into your personal space without a warrant.

Working for a religious department seems to have given some of them the power to do whatever they want.

I suspect the most common victim of this transgression would be the common people, those of us who cannot afford to book rooms in five-star hotels, don’t have palatial houses, and don’t have long titles before our names.

So if you are an honest man booking your family into a budget hotel, you better bring evidence that you are married.

You never know.

Some religious policemen might bang on your door at 3am insisting to have a look at your wife while she is asleep.

Wan Saiful Wan Jan is chief executive of the Institute for Democracy and Economic Affairs (www.ideas.org.my). The views expressed here are entirely the writer’s own.

Tags / Keywords: Wan Saiful Wan Jan, columnist

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