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Last Updated: Saturday, 23 August, 2003, 17:45 GMT 18:45 UK
Malaysian punks told to conform
Jonathan Kent
By Jonathan Kent
BBC correspondent in Kuala Lumpur

Punk may not be dead, but in the Malaysian state of Kelantan it looks set for a relapse.

Punks (archive image, taken in Norway)
One punk had his head shaved... but skinheads are also taboo
The Islamic department in the state capital has launched a campaign to rid the area of punk and skinhead culture after deciding they are un-Islamic.

Teenagers who sport Mohican haircuts may find themselves confronted with a pair of clippers and verses from the Koran.

Punks in the city of Kota Baru appear to have been undone by their patriotism.

A group of them asked for permission to hold a gathering as part of Malaysia's Independence Day celebrations.

Far from welcoming this show of national pride, the city's Islamic Development Department, or JPI, was moved to action.

Officers laid down a marker by detaining a 17-year old youth for looking excessively punky.

He was wearing torn clothes and had his hair dyed red and cropped into a Mohican: here known as a "Trojan" haircut.

He was given a lecture by officials who offered him Koranic verses and told him to abandon his unhealthy lifestyle before shaving his head.

'Holding hands in public'

The JPI says it will be out in force for Independence Day on 31 August, to make sure local punks and skinheads stay at home.

Kelantan is governed by Malaysia's opposition Islamist party PAS.

A spokesman for the state's chief minister says that the party is not against all Western styles but that authorities are concerned to prevent any possible gang rivalries from developing.

There have been a number of cases in Malaysia recently where government ministers have criticised council officials for the manner in which they have enforced morality by laws.

Officers in Kuala Lumpur and the northern city of Ipoh were told that they had overstepped the mark after trying to fine couples for holding hands in public.

Small-town mentality

Two years ago it wasn't punks but fans of "black metal" who found themselves out of favour with the authorities.

Then the government backed action by the authorities in the northern state of Kedah.

There the religious affairs committee proposed to medicate rockers they accused of practising Satanism, carrying out animal sacrifices and defiling the Koran with drugs used to treat addicts.

Both Kedah and Kelantan are conservative rural areas where Malay Muslims are in a large majority.

Local attitudes towards Western fashion may have as much to do with a certain small-town mentality as religious sensibilities.

In large cities like Kuala Lumpur young people are far freer to express themselves.

Malaysian state bans live pop
19 Sep 02  |  Asia-Pacific
A brief history of punk
23 Dec 02  |  Entertainment
Punk lives on in festival
01 May 03  |  Cumbria

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