Malaysia: Stop snooping around for khalwat couples

The New Straits Times
State religious authorities must stop spying, snooping and the practice of looking for couples to be charged with khalwat (close proximity). Mufti Dr Mohd Asri Zainul Abidin said such practices were against Islamic principles of privacy and were trespass.
"It's an embarrassment to Islam to see religious officers going to hotels and demanding the guest list. Islam does not encourage people to look for acts of sins."
"The principle of amar makruf nahi mungkar (performing good deeds and abhorring evil) must be implemented only when sins and crimes are committed in the open. To invade an individual's privacy is against Islam."

Dr Mohd Asri explained that prevention against sins or evil deeds must only be confined to those that would affect society and the environment, or when it would encourage others to commit them publicly.

He said 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.

"There were many other similar cases where local husbands and wives were raided in their homes.

"Such activities give the impression that Islam encourages invasion of privacy."

He also questioned the practice of bringing along unauthorised people for khalwat raids such as the Press.

"What is the purpose of bringing along the media, and sometimes members of the public?

"Are we trying to shame a private individual publicly or are we really abhorring sins?"

On whether he is condoning vice activities, Dr Mohd Asri said: "There's a hadith (sayings of the Prophet) that says 'if you conceal the shame of others, Allah will conceal your shame in the hereafter', The Prophet is not asking us to commit sins but he has made it clear for us not to find the faults of others."

He hoped religious enforcement authorities would prioritise their job, such as addressing the menace of Mat Rempit, which is giving a bad name to Islam as most of them are Muslims, instead of snooping around for couples in private residences.

Some moderate Muslim groups have also alleged that religious authorities have their priorities wrong as some divorced Muslim women find it difficult to get mut'ah (monetary gift), maintenance and guardianship of their children, with the authorities usually claiming a lack of manpower to enforce the law.

To prove his seriousness, Dr Mohd Asri said Perlis Menteri Besar Datuk Shahidan Kassim had agreed to hold a course on khalwat prevention based on Islamic principles soon.

In Malaysia, religion is the prerogative of the state government. Federal authorities only have advisory powers in such matters.

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