PUTRAJAYA - Concert promoters and fans can rest easy now that the Malaysian Islamic Development Department's (Jakim) new set of guidelines on gender segregation during performances is "entirely voluntary".
Jakim director-general Datuk Othman Mustapha said the new guidelines were merely a "reminder" following improvements to the previous ones set in 2007.
"The objective is to educate the entertainment industry. There is no enforcement. It is voluntary for them (the entertainment industry)," he said after attending the National Fatwa Council Special Conference here yesterday.
"The department only advises and gives suggestions to the entertainment industry."
It was up to the respective states to decide on how best to implement the guidelines, Othman added.
The gender segregation move by Jakim had unleashed a storm among the entertainment industry and NGOs, with many saying it was "unwise", "impossible to enforce" and even "threatened the livelihood of artistes".
The guidelines, said Othman, were released again after taking into account the views of stakeholders on recent developments in the industry.
These guidelines, he said, were meant for the entire industry and not just live concerts and international performances.
He also denied that the guidelines had come in the wake of the Communications and Multimedia Ministry's decision to blacklist the organisers of a concert by a male South Korean pop band over the hugging and kissing of female Malay fans on stage.
The department, Othman added, had received support from certain groups within the industry for the guidelines.
"Many people, including artistes and directors, have referred to us before carrying out their programmes. We encourage such action," he said.
Also prohibited under the new guidelines are performances with ritualistic elements, signs or symbols contrary to Islamic teachings (either directly or indirectly), acts prohibited in Islam, vices or other elements that can give rise to chaos or disruption of public order.
While the 2007 edition listed six guidelines for concerts, there are 11 in the latest set.