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Last Updated: Monday, 5 January, 2004, 07:41 GMT
Malaysian city rules on women
By Jonathan Kent
BBC in Kuala Lumpur

The Islamic government in the Malaysian city of Kuala Terengganu has laid down strict new laws about what non-Muslim women can wear to work.

The rules, which ban even moderately revealing clothing, are an unprecedented attempt to impose the party's values on the personal lives of non-believers in Malaysia.

Malaysia's opposition Islamic party, PAS, has been trying to convince the country's non-Muslims that it will respect their way of life in those areas where it holds power.

But new rules from the PAS-controlled city council in Kuala Terengganu governing how women should dress for work will undermine that claim.

Even non-Muslims will be banned from wearing short sleeved blouses, tight jeans, skirts with slits, or skirts cut above the knee.

Muslim women will have to wear a tudong, a headscarf drawn tightly about the face.

The traditional loosely draped Malay headscarf will be banned and the rules will apply to all work places.

With an election on the horizon, this move will be leapt on by the national government as proof that PAS will trample on the freedoms of non-Muslim Malaysians who make up almost half the population.

PAS has proposed a two-tier system, where Islamic hudud laws will be imposed only on Muslims in states where they are in a large majority.

However recent moves in Terengganu - one of two states controlled by PAS - point to a more conservative agenda.

The state government has decided to close down karaoke lounges and snooker halls and to bar Muslims from all premises where liquor is sold.

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