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No to Islamic police in M'sia, says Mahathir

Publication Date : 28-01-2014

 

Having an Islamic police force will not solve the problems plaguing Muslims in Malaysia, said Dr Mahathir Mohmmad in his blog post on Tuesday, arguing against the move to include a police force under the Department of Islamic Development (Jakim).

In his blog post at chedet.cc, Mahathir spoke out against the suggestion to establish a force to regulate Islamic behavior.

“I pray, fast, give alms, say the syahadah, take part in the hajj and fulfil religious duties not because I fear being arrested but because of my personal beliefs, because I am Muslim” said the former prime minister of Malaysia.

If the police force were to be implemented, a thorough study is needed before any decision can be carried out, suggested Mahathir as he listed out the challenges that follow the establishment of a religious police.

Among his concerns were the differing Islamic laws upheld and implemented in different states within Malaysia.

He argued that those unfamiliar with these laws may find themselves caught in a difficult situation once they cross borders.

There are also differing perceptions as to what constitutes Islamic or un-Islamic practices, he said. Even within the police force, there are the orthodox officers who may be stricter than others.

As the definition of Islamic laws become narrower, those who do not believe in a strict approach to a religious definition may not voice out  dissent for fear of being labeled ‘not Islamic enough’, argued Mahathir.

“Enforcers can easily be swayed by a specific perception or their personal perceptions to a certain practice.

“It is unlikely that all police enforcers are highly versed in religious studies. Even within the ulama, there are differing views”.

In his post, Mahathir also questioned the feasibility of specific Islamic laws where lines of "acceptable" behaviour may be blurred such as when it comes to modest dressing.

“In other states, the headscarf may be compulsory. Pants may be considered too tight but the question is how do you gauge what is ‘too tight’? There may be gender segregation at public places. Will a married couple shopping at the market be asked to separate?”

He also stressed that an Islamic police force may deter tourists who contribute significantly to the nation’s economy.

“We receive a large number of foreign tourists who dress in many ways. It is likely that police will stop these tourists to ask about their religious beliefs. If they are Muslim, they will be dragged to the Islamic police department while non-Muslim tourists may feel uncomfortable being questioned.”

Anticipating friction from a multi-religious society, Mahathir also argued that it is likely non-Muslims may also be pressed to follow Islamic rulings which will in turn, spur religious tension.

He added that education on morality by parents and schools is the best tool to counter negative influences.

He concluded by saying that there is no compulsion in Islam and not to turn the religion into a “police state” religion.

In December last year, Home Minister Dr Ahmad Zahid Hamidi announced that a special police unit will be set up to curb deviant Islamic teachings, while on January 25, Jakim director-general Othman Mustafa said that the unit will also be tasked with enforcement against all Syariah criminal offences.  

The plan, however, has sparked debate among law experts, with some quesitioning the need for such a unit and the powers it will have.


 

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