Political Islam: Hijab rules and segregated pools – religion reshapes social norms in


RISE OF THE “MORAL POLICE”

In Malaysia, policies on modest clothing, checks on unmarried couples, the closing down of 4D betting shops, and religious “moral policing” by the authorities are making Ms Siti Kasim fear for her country’s future. 

The lawyer is worried that the path of “Islamisation” taken by the country’s politicians will slowly and surely change the Malaysian way of life. 

Miss Siti Kasim, an outspoken critic of Islamic religious authorities, said that the imposition of religion was becoming more and more rampant in the country, used and promoted by politicians.

“The problem is these people want to enact more laws to control us. Politicians allow this religious sort of morality to be imposed on us and we have to follow them. The governments are putting these laws in place. So, it is part of political Islam,” she said.

Kelantan and Terengganu states, which have shown the strongest support for the Islamist party Parti Islam Se-Malaysia (PAS) for decades, have come under the microscope for some of their policies regarding social practices. Critics say they were tantamount to moral policing.

Muslims make up more than 95 per cent of the population in states such as Kelantan and Terengganu, higher than the 63.5 per cent in Malaysia.

In July 2023 for example, an owner of a salon in Kota Bharu – the capital of Kelantan – was fined RM100 (US$ 21.20) for allowing her female worker to cut the hair of a Muslim male customer.

This incident occurred a month after a non-Muslim boutique owner was issued a summons for violating the council’s bylaw on “indecent clothing” by wearing shorts in her shop. 

The woman was pictured wearing a baggy t-shirt that covered her shorts.  

She had committed an offence under Section 34(2)(b) of the Business and Industrial Trade Bylaws 2019, which states non-Muslim business owners and non-Muslim employees must wear “decent clothes”. 

After the incident made headlines, the Minister of Housing and Local Government Nga Kor Ming said that the summons was cancelled following a discussion with the local council.    

These bylaws that supposedly emphasise Islamic values were enforced and implemented by the Kota Bharu Municipal Council and also prohibit advertisements that do not cover the modesty of models.

Cinemas have also been banned in Kelantan since 1990 – the year PAS won the state – with various government representatives claiming over the years that cinemas could lead to social ills.



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