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SIS’ response to JAWI probing the Muslim girls at K-Pop mini concert

It was recently reported that the Federal Territory Islamic Religious Department (Jawi) will investigate the three tudung-clad fans who were hugged and kissed by members of K-pop band B1A4 during a show under Section 29 of the Syariah Criminal Offences Act (FT) 1977.Section 29 of the Syariah Criminal Offences Act makes it a criminal offense for “any person who contrary to Islamic Law, acts or behaves in an indecent manner in any public place ….”

This provision is unduly broad and opens itself up to abuse because it can be liberally interpreted to apply to any behaviour that the religious authorities deem indecent, apparently even retrospectively.

JAWI’s handling of the issue also reinforces the perception that syariah law is selectively and arbitrarily applied and enforce. If JAWI holds that re-enacting a scene from a Korean drama with a band member as indecent, what about actors who play roles that require physical contact, or Muslim couples who hold hands in public, or those riding motorcycles? Where does it stop? Will JAWI launch investigations into each of these cases too, or pick and choose which cases to investigate based on viral videos?

The provision to punish indecency under section 29 also amounts to an unconstitutional trespass on federal powers. The Federal Constitution’s Ninth Schedule, List II, Item 1 provides that State Assemblies have jurisdiction over the “…creation and punishment of offences by persons professing the religion of Islam … except in regard to matters included in the Federal list”.Section 294A of the Penal Code could conceivably cover the offence of indecency as set out in the Syariah Criminal Offences laws. This overlapping of jurisdictions can lead to instances of double jeopardy, violating legal and constitutional principles that no person can be punished twice for the same offence (Article 7(2) of the Federal Constitution).

Sisters in Islam
13 January 2015