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Sunday December 17, 2006

State must refrain from moral policing, says SIS

PETALING JAYA: Sisters in Islam (SIS) agrees that the state has no role in policing morality.  

It said yesterday that it agreed with Perlis Mufti Dr Mohd Asri Zainul Abidin that state religious authorities should stop spying, snooping and looking for couples to be charged with khalwat

“Dr Mohd Asri is right in saying that the recent case of a khalwat raid mistakenly carried out against an elderly American couple in Langkawi was an example of an operation that did not follow Islamic principles.”  

SIS said it had repeatedly argued that such practices were against Islam’s exhortations to respect an individual’s right to privacy and human dignity.  

The group said the practice of moral policing went against the injunctions laid out in various verses in the Quran, such as “?do not pry into others’ secrets?” (Surah Al-Hujurat 49:12); “Do not enter other houses except yours without first asking permission and saluting the inmates?If you are asked to go away, turn back. That is proper for you” (Surah An-Nur 24:27, 28).  

“We have also pointed out repeatedly that moral policing by state religious authorities has often led to rampant abuses of power.  

“We have maintained from the outset that the Syariah Criminal Offences Enactment is vaguely drafted so that its 'catch all' provisions provide room for abuse by enforcement officers,” said SIS in a statement.  

“The zealousness of religious officials in 'promoting good and preventing evil' has often led to public outrage because those arrested, especially women, were shamed and humiliated.” 

SIS noted there were disagreements among Muslim jurists over the extent to which efforts should be made to protect public morality and the scope of legal protection to the tenets of religion.  

“In fact, the comments from Dr Mohd Asri himself contradict the opinions and directives from several other influential individuals holding office in the Islamic authorities. However, we see this as a positive sign, because as the great Imam Malik once said to the Abbasid Caliph Mansur: 'Diversity of opinion is Allah’s gift to the ummah'.” 

Muslim Youth Movement of Malaysia (Abim) president Yusri Mohamad said it was more important to give constructive advice to improve the enforcement of religious departments on khalwat (close proximity) cases. 

“We should look at the (Perlis Mufti's) comment as part of the process of finding ways to improve the practice of looking for couples to be charged with khalwat.  

“The authorities have always been reminded that the practice must be done according to guidelines. The principles on vice prevention are well established in Islam,” he said. 

Yusri agreed that there were weaknesses in the implementation of the practice. 

“Mistakes could be made in the raids but this cannot be used as grounds to fault the whole practice.” 

Yusri said Abim would meet with the religious department to find out the current guidelines and to discuss ways to improve enforcement.  

Bernama reported that the Malaysian Islamic Development Department (Jakim) would hold a discussion with all state mufti to streamline enforcement action against Muslims engaging in maksiat (sinful) activities. 

Its director-general Datuk Mustafa Abdul Rahman said the discussion to be held in three months is aimed at finding a common stand in the enforcement of Syariah laws.