Khalwat raids considered invasion of privacy, says lawyer

PETALING JAYA: A lawyer says Muslims can take legal action against Islamic religious enforcement authorities for conducting khalwat raids as this amounts to an invasion of privacy.

Syed Iskandar Syed Jaafar Al Mahdzar said Article 5 of the Federal Constitution states that no one should be deprived of life or personal liberty except in accordance with the law.

“The Federal Court, in Sivarasa Rasiah v Badan Peguam Malaysia & Anor, ruled that personal liberty includes the right to privacy,” he told FMT.

He was responding to Minister in the Prime Minister’s Department Mujahid Yusof Rawa, who recently said religious officers must be more circumspect in conducting such raids.

He said breaking down doors during khalwat raids was an abuse of their position as it was not part of standard operating procedure.

Syed Iskandar said it would be considered an invasion of privacy if officers engaged in oppressive behaviour such as banging through doors.

“The Federal Constitution is the supreme law, and no federal or state laws can violate the basic rights of citizens,” he said.

In the case of Islam, he added, while state assemblies passed religious enactments, these were still subject to Article 5.

“If a state law invades the right to privacy, it could be challenged in a civil court even if it is disguised as a religious enactment.”

He also warned religious authorities against being seen as moral police, saying there was a difference between a criminal offence and a sin.

“Anyway, Islam is also against the invasion of privacy as it forbids spying and trespassing,” he added.

He said religious authorities and law enforcement agencies should only take action if a person’s conduct was injurious to public morality, like gross indecency.

Lawyer R Kengadharan meanwhile said the constitution allowed citizens to conduct their affairs without state and regulatory bodies infringing on their civil liberties.

“It is not the duty of religious bodies to impose their values on others. If there is any encroachment, they should be taken to task.”

He also advised religious authorities to educate the public on morality instead of acting with the intention of shaming people.