Malaysia: PAS chief makes about-turn on dress code

New Straits Times
The Menteri Besar now says it is not right for the Terengganu state government to dictate what non-Muslims cannot wear.
15 January 2004: Menteri Besar Abdul Hadi Awang has reversed his stand on the ban which stops non-Muslim women in Terengganu from wearing short skirts or tight jeans to work.
He said on Tuesday that the Terengganu state government run by Parti Islam SeMalaysia (PAS) could not dictate how non-Muslims should be dressed. 'They are free to choose their dressing and we cannot force them to dress like Muslims,' he said before presenting Chinese New Year gifts to non-Muslims in Kampong Tiong.

The statement by the PAS chief contradicted one he made earlier in which he said that the dress code set on Jan 4 by the Kuala Terengganu Municipal Council was acceptable to non-Muslim state religious leaders. Several of these leaders and other groups in Malaysia criticised the code as infringing on the rights of women who are not followers of Islam. They included Muslims urging the Terengganu government to pay more attention to the state's poor economy than the way women dress.

Responding to these criticisms over the weekend, PAS Youth Chief Salahuddin Ayub argued that provocative dressing by women was 'closely linked' to murders, rapes and social abuses. He also blamed Jews for pioneering 'a provocative, seductive and branded culture' pandering to the dresser's ego. He said Kelantan Umno deputy chairman Zaid Ibrahim's protest over the code showed that he was anti-Islam and that Umno was a proxy of the Jews.

'The question of violating basic human rights does not arise when enforcing the compulsory rule of covering the aurat,' he said. Aurat refers to parts of the body that should not be exposed according to Islamic belief. He also stressed that adhering to the rules of Islam was a responsibility and not a matter of rights.

Datuk Zaid had argued that it was illegal for the state government to impose the code. The federal Constitution does not allow the local authorities to check the freedom of Malaysians. It does not require Malaysian women to wear only one type of attire in workplaces. No one has the right to decide how Muslims or non-Muslims should lead their lives, he said.

Malaysian Chinese Association Wanita chief Ng Yen Yen said blaming provocative dressing as the cause of rapes, murders and other sexual crimes reflected the narrow thinking of PAS. The brutal rape and murder of computer engineer Noor Suzaily Mukhtar is one example of the violence against women who are decently dressed. 'They were unfortunate victims and this has nothing to do with what they wore,' she said. She also accused PAS of issuing several rulings oppressing women ever since it came into power in Terengganu and Kelantan.

Ms P. Jai, an executive, said PAS should get rid of its obsession with reprimanding women. 'What about men? Will they ban sports events, including football matches, because the male players wear shorts?'