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Last Updated: Friday, 18 February, 2005, 09:14 GMT
Malaysia club raid sparks row
By Jonathan Kent
BBC, Kuala Lumpur

New allegations have surfaced about misconduct by Malaysia's religious police during a raid on a top Kuala Lumpur nightclub last month.

More than 100 plainclothes officers from the Federal Territories Islamic Department (JAWI) detained young Muslims at the Zouk nightclub.

Female detainees complained of sexual harassment by officers and the incident has led to a heated debate about the department's future.

Eyewitnesses have now told the BBC that officers assaulted and severely beat members of the club's staff.

I would like to take this opportunity to applaud the recent raids by JAWI against the cesspools of vice and debauchery in Kuala Lumpur
posting to JAWI web site

The sources also said that non-Muslim patrons, including tourists, who were outside the officers' jurisdiction, also reported being threatened with violence.

"Up to 150 of them came in," one witness said. "They didn't identify themselves, they didn't show any ID cards. They just forced their way in and started pushing people around."

In the days after the raid it emerged that dozens of young women were held for up to 10 hours without access to a toilet, long after male detainees had been released.

A number of women said religious officers ordered them to pose in their nightclub outfits while others were asked lewd questions about their genitalia.

JAWI would neither confirm nor deny the allegations.

The incident prompted Malaysia's cabinet to discuss the future of the religious police.

Cabinet minister and former law minister Rais Yatim said after the meeting that he believed crime should be a matter for the police and morality for the family.

However, his colleague Abdullah Mohamed Zin, Minister for Islamic affairs, defended the officers and maintained that the raid was carried out according to procedures.

The incident has sparked a sometimes venomous debate among Malaysia's Muslims, reflected in comments posted on JAWI's website.

Many correspondents, including one signing himself Abdullah were supportive.

"I would like to take this opportunity to applaud the recent raids by JAWI against the cesspools of vice and debauchery in Kuala Lumpur. In this era of permissiveness and promiscuity, there is a need for stern action to roll back the decay of morality in society," he said.

Others, including SI Azhar, were angered by the officers' alleged behaviour.

"If the reports were true, the officers [who] committed those acts were no better than hypocrites, trying to uphold good values of Islam but themselves never follow[ing] it. You have ashamed us fellow Malays and Muslims. Just tell me, how can we encourage non-Muslims to embrace Islam with this kind of attitude?!"

Country profile: Malaysia
15 Mar 03 |  Country profiles

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