Cover up or pay up

Cover up or pay up

The Malaysian Chinese Association (MCA) and Sisters in Islam (SIS) have slammed the Kelantan authorities for enforcing a dress code for Muslim working women.

Under Operasi Gempur Aurat (Operation Aurat Attack), women traders and workers who wear tight outfits and do not cover their hair will have to pay a maximum fine of RM500 (S$195).

The rule applies to Muslim women working in wet markets, supermarkets, food outlets and all other commercial centres that require operating licences from local authorities.

Non-Muslim business operators also risk being fined if their Muslim employees do not abide by the dress code, The Star reported.

MCA vice-president Chew Mei Fun called the Kota Bahru Municipal Council's move discriminatory and oppressive.

She also criticised Parti Keadilan Rakyat (PKR) and Democratic Action Party (DAP) for failing to stop their coalition partner, Pan-Malaysian Islamic Party (PAS), from imposing such rules.

Ms Chew added that by PAS' standards, wearing jeans would also be viewed as offensive as they were tight-fitting.

Kelantan should instead focus on solving problems such as security and drugs, she suggested.

Ms Chew said that such rules would discourage women from joining the workforce and affect the growth of women entrepreneurs.

In a statement, women's rights group SIS said that Kelantan's crackdown against women not wearing the tudung was uncalled for.

The group said women should be free to decide whether they wanted to wear the headscarf or not.

"There is no compulsion in religion," it said, citing several verses from the Quran.

The Malaysian Indian Congress Youth chief Sivaraajh Chandran also slammed DAP and PKR for failing to restrain PAS from implementing policies affecting women.

In a statement, he accused PAS of acting against feminism and women by policing the female wardrobe, Rakyat Post reported.

In defence of Kelantan authorities, Pasir Mas MP Nik Mohamad Abduh Nik Aziz said the dress code for women was in response to public demand and complaints.

"It is a routine exercise, as a reminder on the need to cover the aurat (parts of the body that must be covered except to a woman's husband or relatives)," The Star quoted him as saying.

"The people in Kelantan understand this."

Kota Bahru Municipal Council's Youth, Women and Islamic Development Committee chairman Nor Azariza Mohd Alawi said the rule was imposed only on those interacting with members of the public.

The council's Islamic Development director Ropein Hassan said since the rule was imposed in September, 34 offenders have been fined.

He said the crackdown in Kota Baru would end next month.

This article was first published on Nov 1, 2014.
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