State religious department raids, done in the name of Islam is against the very principles of Islam in the first place, says an ex-mufti.
These officials have indirectly caused the death of people, stripping top officials of their positions and even mistakenly nabbing happily married couples.
Last month, two Pahang footballers were caught by the Pahang Islamic Religious Department on suspicion of having committed khalwat with a woman each in a hotel. Speculation is rife that one of the women was a young Malay actress.
Typically, these type of religious raids get splashed onto the front pages of local tabloids, and the perpetrators, like the footballer and actress, become gossip fodder for Malaysians everywhere.
Yet, ironically, this act of snooping, spying, naming and shaming done in the name of Islam, and paid for by taxpayers, is against the principles of Islam in the first place, as former Perlis mufti Mohd Asri Zainul Abidin points out.
“Yes, Islam forbids khalwat and adultery. But Islam also forbids exposing people’s personal wrongdoings.
“It is not your responsibility to snoop around and uncover people’s wrongdoings,” Asri told FMT.
The renowned Muslim scholar has for years been a staunch critic of khalwat arrests and raids, even while he was a mufti from 2006 to 2008.
“Such activities give the impression that Islam encourages invasion of privacy, which is not true,” said Asri.
Asri said: “If you want to check for every sin committed in private, then you will have to check every house, every private vehicle and put up roadblocks everywhere. Not only is it against the teachings of the Quran, it is also futile.”
More serious wrongdoings
But proponents of moral policing in Malaysia insist that religious authorities must raid hotel rooms and homes if they receive a tip-off, to prevent “evil” from taking place within the four walls.
This is despite an abundance of hadiths (prophetic traditions) which illustrate how Prophet Muhammad disapproved of his people informing him of the private transgressions of others.
Instead, the prophet preferred that society relied on one other to encourage good deeds and discourage wrongdoings, rather than depend on a state-appointed moral authority.
Asri said if a person who tipped off the religious authorities was sincere in halting evil, then he should just stop the couple from entering the hotel in the first place, without having to call the officers.
“Why wait for them to enter the hotel room, and only then call in the religious authorities? That’s just setting the couple up for a fall,” he said.
But this does not mean Asri condones khalwat and adultery. While he is adamantly against snooping for sins, he agrees that action should be taken if someone is flouting Islamic teachings before your eyes.
But action, he points out, should not be limited to khalwat and adultery alone.
“There are so many more serious wrongdoings occurring openly before us, yet we are not even stopping it.
“For example, husbands are openly beating and mistreating their wives. Nobody does anything about that. Yet, that is far more important than looking for people’s private sins,” he said.