Dress code ruling draws flak

  • Nation
  • Wednesday, 07 Jan 2004

PETALING JAYA: The Terengganu PAS government’s decision to restrict what non-Muslim women could wear during working hours has stirred up a storm of reactions from social groups and political leaders as well as the public. 

Sisters in Islam programme manager Masjaliza Hamzah said punitive measures would not bring about a more pious society. 

The way women dressed, she added, reflected their social and economic roles, which varied with time and place. 

“Women – whether they profess Islam or other faiths – should not be held responsible for the indiscretions or impiety of others,” she said.  

Kuala Terengganu Municipal Council president Dr Sulaiman Abdullah said on Sunday that non-Muslim women in the private sector could no longer wear short-sleeved blouses, tight-fitting jeans, long skirts with slits or mini-skirts during working hours.  

Owners of business premises, he added, would be compounded for up to RM250 if their Muslim workers did not comply with the Islamic dress code and this would be imposed on non-Muslims too.  

He added that business licences could also be revoked. 

Mentri Besar Datuk Seri Abdul Hadi Awang said the dress code was a “morality issue” relevant to both Muslims and non-Muslims and he stood by the council’s decision. 

Wanita MCA chief Datuk Dr Ng Yen Yen said non-Muslim women would not “bow to the pressure of the PAS leaders,” adding that dressing was a personal matter and Malaysians understood the bounds of decency. 

“Non-Muslim women will be practical in their dressing because Malaysia is a humid, tropical country. Who are PAS leaders to tell us what to wear or not to wear? This is not Afghanistan or Iran.” 

Subang Jaya assemblyman Datuk Lee Hwa Beng said the public should judge for themselves whether the directive was suitable for a multi-racial society. 

DAP national deputy chairman Karpal Singh said the issue impinged on the rights of non-Muslim women guaranteed under the Federal Constitution. 

“DAP will not hesitate to take the Terengganu state government to court on the issue if it persists in enforcing the proposed dress code on non-Muslim women. 

“PAS may be in the opposition but DAP will not sit back and watch it ride roughshod on the constitutional rights of both Muslims and non-Muslims,” he said in a statement yesterday. 

Karpal Singh said Abdul Hadi had no right to dictate morality in open contravention of the Constitution. 

“Even the courts have been judiciously pronounced to be courts of law, not of morals. Self-regulation is more than enough to ensure non-Muslim women in the private sector dress with decency and circumspection,” he said. 

All Women’s Action Society programme manager S. Manohary said employers should not be forced to comply with the dress code or be penalised for not doing so. 

Instead of the dress code, she added, the council should focus on enforcing a sexual harassment-free environment. 

Women's Aid Organisation executive director Ivy Josiah said the idea was outrageous and PAS should stop targeting Muslim and non-Muslim women. 

“Women’s attire has not ignited violence. PAS should pay more attention on educating men on how to respect women as most rape and domestic violence perpetrators are men,” she said. 

Office clerk Saharin Abu Bakar, 40, said non-Muslims should be allowed to dress according to their religions. 

IT consultant Loo Yee Mun, 28, said companies should implement dress code rules and not the government. 

“We live in a plural society. The Terengganu government should not impose this ruling on those of other races or religions.” 

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