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Friday November 23, 2012

Kelantan’s gender segregation rules affect non-Muslim businesses

Hanging out: Shoppers standing around outside Nice Hair Salon in KB Mall,
Kota Baru. Hanging out: Shoppers standing around outside Nice Hair Salon in KB Mall, Kota Baru.

KOTA BARU: Hair dressing salon operators are learning the hard way that gender segregation rules in Kelantan apply to non-Muslims as well.

They have had to pay many summonses for allowing their female workers to cut the hair of non-Muslim male patrons, which they thought was permissible.

E-Life Hair Salon manager Ong Lee Ting said she had settled 11 summonses since she opened for business in KB Mall in 2010.

Hairy situation: Ong showing one of the 11 summonses she received for allowing
her female employees to cut the hair of non-Muslim male patrons. Hairy situation: Ong showing one of the 11 summonses she received for allowing her female employees to cut the hair of non-Muslim male patrons.

The fines were imposed under Section 107(2) of the Local Council Act by-laws which prohibits a woman from cutting the hair of a man and vice versa regardless of religion.

“I have been paying fines of between RM200 and RM350,” said Ong, who was issued the latest summons on Tuesday.

“I find the by-laws confusing ... they should not apply to a non-Muslim woman cutting the hair of a non-Muslim man.”

Gender segregation is among the controversial regulations imposed by the PAS state government, which insists that the rule be also observed at supermarket check-outs.

The last time Ong went to the local council office to pay a compound, she was told that the licence for the salon would be revoked because of the many summonses issued to the operator.

However, council secretary Mohd Anis Hussein said: “As long as they (the salon owners) pay the compounds, they will be allowed to operate.”

He added that the salon owners understood the by-laws and the consequences of ignoring them.

Nice Hair Salon manager Alice Ong Lee Ruong was baffled by the rule.

“I would understand it if we were fined for allowing our women workers to cut the hair of Muslim men. But they were attending to non-Muslim men,” she said.

Ong, who had settled 10 summonses so far, wondered for how long she would have to pay fines.

“They are not cheap and we have to consider the high rental, salaries of our workers and other expenses,” she said.

Another salon manager, who declined to be named, said the council by-laws were making life difficult for hair dressers.

She had been issued four summonses so far.

Kelantan MCA information chief Tan Ken Ten said the by-laws were “not friendly” to non-Muslim business circles.

“The council, in its zest to implement Islamic principles in its by-laws, has caused hardship to the non-Muslim business community,” he added.

National PAS Supporters Congress chairman Hu Pang Chaw agreed that the by-laws should not apply to non-Muslim women cutting the hair of non-Muslim men.

He urged the council to review the ruling.

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