03/20/2004, 00.00
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If elected Islamic party wants impose headscarves and ban miniskirt

Kuala Lumpur (AsiaNews/Agencies)  – The opposition Islamic Malaysian party (PAS) says it will enforce the wearing of headscarves and prohibit non-Muslim women from wearing miniskirts should it win control of the northern state of Kedah. Election polls will open tomorrow, March 21.

Wan Tom Wan Mohamad Noor, head of the women's wing of the PAS party in Kedah, believes that such laws, if applied, will help root out certain crimes committed against women, like rape and incest. Muslim women will have to cover their heads with headscarves or shawls and their bodies with long flowing dresses. Non-Muslim women will be exempt from wearing headscarves, but should avoid wearing low-necked and tight-fitting clothes.  

According to Wan Tom, the way in which women are dressed in public may prove provocative to men and lead them to satisfy their sexual instincts. She says it is a determining factor in the cause of sexual violence against women. "This explains why even women who dress decently and wear 'tudungs' (headscarves) are victims of rape and homicide," she said.

Kedah is both the object of the aims of the PAS party and those of Prime Minister Abdullah Ahmad Badawi, who supports a moderate and modern form of Islam. The Malaysian premier hopes to regain votes he lost in his home state of Kedah. He also hopes to win the states of Terengganu and Kelantan, both of which are PAS strongholds, thanks to his much appreciated education in Islamic schools.

Recently PAS spiritual leader, 73 year-old Nik Aziz, expressed his loud criticism against the prime minister's secular party, UMNO (United Malays National Organization) after Badawi called Aziz a fanatic and sarcastically labeled him a "saint" in the state of Kelantan where PAS has been in power since 1990.   

PAS promotes a form of Islam which is much more radical than that of its political rival. It aims to set up a theocratic government which would introduce the Sharia (Islamic law), including stoning and amputations as legal forms of punishment. Currently, PAS holds power in 2 of Malaysia's 13 states. 

During election campaigns, Aziz had often said that only those who support PAS and Islamic law could go to heaven. "PAS supporters in Kelantan will surely be paid back, since with our rules we have managed to ban gambling, karaoke and other bad habits. If people don't vote PAS, it means that that they are in favor of betting, adultery and rape. These people won't go to heaven," he said. 

The campaign to win votes by promising entry into paradise has angered UMNO party supporters. According the party's representatives such proclamations have inspired fundamentalist tendencies to increase throughout the country.

Aziz has not hesitated to launch direct hits at UMNO, a party he considers far too secular, and has urged voters to aim more at procuring their own eternal salvation rather than earning more money. He says the rival party "buys people's votes like dried fish."

Nik Aziz, nicknamed "Tok Guru" ("Uncle Guru") is the oldest of 18 brothers and sisters. He studied Islam for 10 years at universities in Pakistan, Mesir and India before entering politics in 1967. He is a polyglot, speaking several Malaysian languages, Arab, Urdu and English. He has refused to live in an official religious or political residence but instead has opted for a simple green-painted wooden home. Green is the color of the PAS party. A mosque and a private religious school have been built next to where he lives. In 2001, Nik Adli, the third oldest of his 10 children, was arrested on suspicion of terrorist activities, though there was no evidence to prove it.      

In the last 14 years Nik Aziz has made a series of decrees to ban men and women from going to the same hair salons in addition to massage parlors and public singing and dancing activities. He has discouraged women from wearing lipstick and encouraged employers to hire less attractive women for state positions. 

UMNO, in order to win Muslim votes, has added the obligation for all Muslim students to study Arabic and the Koran in primary schools to its party platform. Last year the government ended subsidies to around 2500 Islamic schools, accusing them of being hotbeds for PAS ideology. More than 125,000 Muslim Malaysian children study in these schools and many terrorists have thinks to them. Even Badawi has expressed his commitment to fighting Islamic fundamentalism.  

Malaysia is a constitutional monarchy with Islam as the official state religion. The country's constitution guarantees freedom of religion but discourages proselytism. The Christian press finds difficulties releasing its news items and the Church is not granted permission to build places of worship.   (MR)
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