05/24/2024, 14.30
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Terengganu resort fined for 'non-Muslim' Hawaiian-themed party

by Joseph Masilamany

The authorities fined the Summer Bay Resort for a gig held on 20 May, China’s unofficial Valentine’s Day. According to the charge, a 2002 law was violated. In the Islamist-ruled state, this kind of accusations are not rare. The law itself was amended last December, causing an outcry among human rights groups.

Kuala Lumpur (AsiaNews) – Terengganu state authorities fined the Summer Bay Resort 25,000 ringgit (about US$ 5,300) for hosting a Hawaiian-themed "Aloha Party" on Monday.

The charges include the “non-Muslim" nature of the event, which was attended by disk jockeys and dancers, with men dancing on stage alongside bikini-clad women.

The state, which is a sultanate with Kuala Terengganu as its capital, is ruled by the Malaysian Islamic Party (PAS), and did not appreciate the gig.

Razali Idris, chairman of the State Tourism, Culture, Environment, and Climate Change Committee, told TRDI News that the party violated subsection 6(1) of the Terengganu Entertainment and Places of Entertainment Enactment 2002, which requires a licence to host such events.

Even though the resort holds permits to operate, the authorities pledged to continue to investigate. “We also want to check if the resort has committed any other offenses on the island. The resort has been hosting such a gig annually for 10 years without the knowledge of the authorities,” Razali Idris explained.

The fine will be followed by a meeting between the resort's owner, Terengganu's religious affairs department, and the mayor of Kuala Terengganu. The owner will have to explain the Aloha Party, organised as a “520”, a reference to 20 May, a Valentine’s Day type of event held in China.

The Malaysian state of Terengganu is no stranger to such charges. Last month, a single mother was found guilty of committing the sin of khalwat (closeness) and sentenced to six strokes of rotan cane. It is not known whether the flogging sentence was carried out as scheduled on 6 May.

The accused, Nurfifi Amira Nawi, a 37-year-old mother of one, was charged under Section 31(b) of the Syariah Criminal Offences Enactment 2022, for being alone with a 40-year-old man who was not her husband.

On 1 December 2023, the state assembly approved several amendments to the 2022 law, imposing even more repressive measures against women.

Now women who become pregnant outside of wedlock risk a fine of up to 5,000 ringgits (US$ 1,060), imprisonment for up to three years, caning up to six times, or a combination of all three.

Fines of up to 2,000 ringgits (US$ 450), or up to a year's imprisonment, or both, for women who wear men's clothes and behave like men. Repeat offenders can be whipped up to six times or jailed for up to three years, or both, and fined up to 5,000 ringgits US$ 1,060).

Reacting to the legislative amendments, 10 human rights groups, including Sisters in Islam and the Centre for Independent Journalism, urged the Malaysian Human Rights Commission to review the amended legislation.

The human rights groups note that the changes to the law further exacerbate the harm already visited upon women, young people, and LGBTQ+ people.

In this context, the amendment criminalising premarital pregnancies has been the subject of widespread debate, with conflicting opinions among Muslim doctors.

However, the chairman of the Committee for the Implementation of Syariah, State Education and Higher Education, Satiful Bahari Mamat, said that "the well-being of Muslims, especially in Terengganu, will be better protected" by such measures.

He went on to say that the section on women acting like men was necessary, since existing provisions only applied to men who behave like women.

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