State Must Refrain from Moral Policing

PRESS STATEMENT
 
State Must Refrain from Moral Policing
16 December 2006

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’.”

Sisters In Islam
16 December 2006

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