Update on the Mat Skoding thing. The Prime Minister has put his rather gentle, soft-spoken foot down.
From The Star 23 Feb 2007:
PM: Concentrate on tackling urgent issues facing Muslims
JAKARTA: Stop policing the morals of Muslims, concentrate on tackling various urgent issues facing them instead, Datuk Seri Abdullah Ahmad Badawi said.
The Prime Minister said there was no need for such policing which others could easily misinterpret.
“Last time (Datuk Seri Mohd) Ali Rustam (Malacca Chief Minister) attempted to set up a moral police squad in Malacca, but I said there was no need for it.
“We can take action against those who are involved in vice activities in public places, but there is no need for us to snoop as that will infringe on people’s right to privacy,” he told the Malaysian media at the end of his two-day visit here.
He was asked to comment on a statement by Terengganu State Islam Hadhari Committee chairman Datuk Rosul Wahid on Wednesday, who said that the
state had not set up a snoop team to spy on Muslims committing khalwat but would depend on informers to curb vice activities.
Abdullah said that as far as he was concerned, snooping and informing was one and the same.
“If you do not snoop, how are you going to give information on such activities? I say that there is no need for this.
“It can be misread, for example, the incident which happened to a non-Muslim couple in Langkawi not too long ago,” he said.
He was referring in the incident where the hotel room of an elderly foreign couple in Langkawi was raided by anti-vice enforcement officers who acted on information given by staff of that hotel.
Abdullah said that instead of devoting too much time and effort trying to police the morals of Muslims, state religious departments were better off concentrating on programmes that could strengthen the Islamic values and morals of the community.
They should also focus on resolving the many cases involving Muslims that have yet to be cleared at the Syariah Courts, he added.
This is not the first time that the Government has had to put a stop to the setting up of snoop squads to nab people committing morality offences.
Last year, the Cabinet told the Federal Territory Religious Department to disband its “snoop team” as it was tantamount to invasion of privacy.
In 2005, the Government also rejected a plan by the 4B Youth movement led by Mohd Ali to set up an Islamic snoop squad dubbed Mat Skoding, which was to be encouraged to spy on couples and to report those who engage in immoral activities.
On an unrelated matter, Abdullah said recent suggestions by police that construction workers be confined to areas near their working places should be discussed first between the various parties involved.
He said that at a glance, the suggestion had merit but it should never be meant to restrict the workers from exercising their freedom of movement.
“If the employers can provide living quarters that are close to their projects and regulate their movement in an out of those areas, then I do not see why this cannot be done.
“However, there should not be any interference by the police in regulating the workers’ movements as that will go against their basic rights,” he added.
Interview with Datuk Rosol Wahid, who is Terengganu Islam Hadhari and Welfare Committee chairman, on the ‘snoop squad’ issue. From NST 23 Feb 2007:
‘We’re in the business of stopping moral decay’
23 Feb 2007
Terengganu Islam Hadhari and Welfare Committee chairman Datuk Rosol Wahid (picture, below) believes that preventing khalwat (close proximity) is important in Islam. He tells ROSLI ZAKARIA why.
Q: Is khalwat a major problem for Terengganu? How do you overcome the problem?
A: I have to admit that it’s a problem but it’s not as serious as illegal racers, snatch theft or house break-ins. But it’s still a problem which the Religious Affairs Department needs to address before it gets out of control.
Our approach is to educate society. It is much easier to do it in Terengganu because the majority of the population are Muslims, and the best place to start is in schools.
We believe that by infusing Islamic knowledge in students, we could create a greater sense of understanding and awareness. These are students who will become involved in nation-building and they need to have strong moral values. We cannot achieve the objectives under the Islam Hadhari concept in one day. But we have to start somewhere.
Q: Is the state government taking over the responsibility of parents in educating children and moulding a morally-sound society?
A: We’re not taking over parents’ role. We are complementing their role. But no matter how you look at it, moral education must start at home.
More often than not, the source of the problem is neglect at home and bad influence. Children get influenced by drugs and become involved in immoral activities, for example. But do we blame the parents who need to earn money for the family?
If you start the blame game, the list will become endless. Some people will go to the extent of blaming the government for not doing enough to stop moral decay. It’s a shared responsibility. You cannot leave that responsibility to parents alone and that is why we have schools, which is the government’s responsibility.
The police, the state Religious Affairs Department, the Road Transport Department, the local authorities and other agencies all have roles to play in moulding society.
Q: Does having informants help curb khalwat and immoral activities?
A: There’s no foolproof approach or mechanism that can eliminate immoral activities. The presence of informants acts as a deterrent.
In Terengganu, we have informants who voluntarily provide information on immoral activities, including khalwat, to enforcement officers of the state Religious Affairs Department. They are not vigilantes or members of a special squad who snoop around to catch couples but they can be anyone who feels it is his responsibility to check immoral activities in their area.
We are getting the support from parents of couples arrested for khalwat. Considering that it is a thankless job for the officers, such support encourages officers to work harder.
Seriously, the department is understaffed and any help from informants is welcomed. We are not in the business of putting couples or their families to shame.
We are helping families and society. In the larger context, we are preventing such incidences from becoming a norm.
Q: How do you relate this to Islam Hadhari?
A: We want to create a civilised and progressive society as envisioned by Islam, and Islam Hadhari is a concept which guides us.
With the right knowledge, we can develop a righteous society where people learn what is right and wrong, and exercise restraint. Education is still the best form of prevention.
Q: Can your style of implementation solve the problems associated with moral decay in society?
A: We have to be realistic about this. We have more than a million people in the state and there are certainly some bad apples, or if you like, black sheep.
We hope that our future generation will have some form of insulation against corrupt practices, mismanagement and fraud. With sound knowledge of Islam, we hope the next generation will be more civilised, progressive and morally sound. It’s not going to be easy as there are detractors.
We just have to be confident that what we are doing today is for the good of all in the state. We are serious about realising the Islam Hadhari concept.
We are serious about checking moral decay and transforming the people into a progressive workforce. We have more serious matters to attend to than focus on khalwat cases.