MALAYSIA Tanah Tumpah Darahku


Thursday, June 29, 2023

When a fine is more indecent than the ‘crime’


From Clement Stanley

According to reports, the non-Muslim woman who was fined for dressing “indecently” was wearing shorts in her own shop in Kota Bharu.

She wasn’t parading it; if she was, it would have been pointed out by the authorities.

Apparently, she had fallen foul of by-law 34(2)(b) of the Kota Bharu Municipal Council’s business and industrial trade by-laws 2019 and summoned.

In defending the council, Lau Chin Chua, the special officer to the Kelantan menteri besar, claimed that “people thought she wasn’t wearing anything, only a t-shirt”.

People thought? Who might have been the “people” who made this assumption, I wonder. Was it one person who thought she was wearing nothing but a t-shirt or was it “people” in the dozens?

It is highly unlikely that she wanted or intended to insult anyone’s sensitivities by wearing what she wore.

She may have just forgotten about the dress code so zealously guarded by the moral police of the PAS government.

Would not a gentle reminder have been sufficient for her?

Lau did say that the majority of non-Muslims who work and conduct business in Kelantan understand the by-laws set by local councils. Notice the words “majority of”? Well, that lady in the shorts whose only intention was to eke out a living may not have been in that category. She could well belong to the “minority of” people who were unfamiliar with the by-laws. A reminder would have sufficed.

Issuing her a compound notice instead of “educating” her on the laws pertaining to a rigid dress code will only result in her confidence being shattered because she could well see herself being made an example of.

Lau is right in saying that local laws must be observed. But, instead of being critical of the manner in which this issue was highlighted in the media, he could have taken the trouble to appeal to the council for some compassion and understanding for the victim in this case. It could have been her first offence. So, why not stand by her since you are in a privileged position?

A uniform carries a lot of weight these days. It can be intimidating. But if that power is used as a show of might and nothing else, you don’t deserve the time of day. After all, how does one decide the boundaries of “decency”? By what token is “decency” measured?

Perhaps the officer who issued the notice was inspired by PAS’ Kuantan MP Wan Razali Wan Nor, who saw it fit to criticise the decades-old uniform design of our nurses. For as long as you have people in authority planting the seeds of irrational thinking and behaviour in the civil service, such situations will continue to exist.

Lau has invited people to Kelantan to see how harmoniously the non-Muslims live there with Muslims. I don’t recall anyone saying or thinking otherwise. It has nothing to do with a lady in a pair of shorts. - FMT

Clement Stanley is an FMT reader.

The views expressed are those of the writer and do not necessarily reflect those of MMKtT.

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