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Tuesday, 24 October, 2000, 20:28 GMT
Call to ban women in Koran contest
Malaysian women wearing headscarves
Women's voices could attract men, says Mr Nik Aziz
A senior Malaysian official, who recently blamed women for social decay, has said they should be banned from Koran recital contests in case their voices seduce men.

Nik Aziz Nik Mat, spiritual leader of the opposition Parti Islam seMalaysia (PAS), said contestants in such recitals had to use high, melodic voices which "may be an attraction to men'', according to the Star newspaper.

Malaysian women
Mr Nik Aziz wants women to dress modestly
Mr Nik Aziz, chief minister of Kelantan, also criticised women for wearing revealing clothing.

He said a woman's voice could be considered similarly provocative and people should be deterred "from getting involved in unhealthy activities''.

Mr Nik Aziz was criticised last month after he blamed women for social problems in Malaysia and said those who wore skimpy attire encouraged men to commit rape.

Re-education

Meanwhile, reports say a controversial bill which would punish Muslims who abandon their faith looks likely to be delayed or shelved.

Prime Minister Mahathir
Mr Mahathir: Calling for tolerance
Abdul Hamid Othman, a minister responsible for religion, said on Tuesday that the Restoration of Faith Bill would "not necessarily be enacted in our time".

He said apostasy was not a serious problem, but was being politicised by PAS to win votes.

Mr Abdul Hamid was speaking on the sidelines of a conference on Islamic law at which Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad criticised Islamic intolerance.

Intolerance

Mr Mahathir called for Malaysia to follow the more flexible form of the religion rather than orthodox interpretations.

Islam appeared to be different from the religion of peace and tolerance created by the Prophet Muhammad, he was quoted saying.

Instead, many perceived it as an intolerant religion because of the misplaced orthodoxy of people with vested interests.

Asked what action the government planned to take against those who left Islam, Mr Mahathir said that in Malaysia "we choose not to take any action".

"Some people think the death penalty must be imposed on those who commit apostasy," he added.

"But this becomes a disincentive to those who want to convert to Islam. Then Islam won't spread in Malaysia."

Just over half Malaysia's population are Muslim Malays. The rest are mainly Christians, Hindus and Buddhists.

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See also:

09 Oct 00 | Asia-Pacific
Malaysian minister in rape row
20 Jul 00 | Asia-Pacific
Unisex salons get the chop
09 Jun 00 | Asia-Pacific
Islamic party rejects women MPs
06 Jun 00 | Asia-Pacific
Islamic state bans karaoke
05 Oct 00 | Asia-Pacific
Malaysia bans game arcades
13 Apr 00 | Asia-Pacific
Malaysian Islamists demand modesty
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