Harassed for being seen eating during Ramadan


PETALING JAYA: A Muslim woman who is an activist has taken issue with the harassment, verbal abuse and public persecution that goes with moral and religious policing of Muslims in Malaysia.

The woman, who goes by the name ‘Mrym Lee’ on Facebook and Twitter,has ignited a debate on the issue of moral policing in the country.

In a recent posting, she wrote about how she and a friend were harassed in public when they both decided to make a protest against moral and religious policing by deliberately eating and drinking in public during Ramadan, while visibly being a Muslim in hijab.

On one occasion, a restaurant manager in a Kuala Lumpur shopping mall questioned whether she was a Malay and Muslim, and why she was not fasting.

She said that eating and drinking were not against the law, only for the manager to respond to her by saying she was “damaging” the image of Islam.

“I then went to him, explaining how he’s been rude to me as a customer, and he explained that religious authorities could raid the restaurant and mete out penalties for serving Muslims during Ramadan.”

Five minutes later, a Malay Muslim customer at the restaurant with his family came to her table to question her right to eat in public, accusing her of not respecting those who were fasting. He, too, accused her of not respecting Islam.

Mrym Lee said such religious policing of other people’s personal beliefs and rituals was rife and backwards mentality was worrying.

“Get your priorities straight. Go punish our corrupt politicians and fix our messed-up policies. Leave the practice of faiths to the individual, empower each other in society to do good, only then we’ll see productive progress,” she wrote.

Her accounts and subsequent polls on her Twitter account have drawn mixed views. Some commenters supported her, saying she was right to stand up for her rights. Others said that while she was within her rights to eat in public when not fasting, it was disrespectful to do so in front of others, with one commenter saying that eating in front of fasting children made it hard for the children to keep up with their fasting.

Some commenters chastised her and questioned her lack of common sense.

Mrym ran two polls, one asking Muslims whether they ate or drank in public during Ramadan and another on whether they felt it was wrong to do so.

Some 58 per cent of 835 respondents said they did not eat or drink in public out of respect of other Muslims, while 63 per cent of 701 respondents said it was not wrong for Muslims to eat or drink in public during Ramadan.