The Malaysian state of Terengganu has proposed punishing residents who do not attend Friday Muslim prayers by forcing them to ride throughout their towns in a hearse.
The Malay Mail reports that the public humiliation measure “would be enforced soon,” according to senior state official Mentri Besar Datuk Ahmad Razif Abdul Rahman, though the media was not provided with a specific date on which the hearse rides would begin. Officials claim the measure is necessary to combat growing hooliganism in the region, and impose an Islamic way of life.
“Those who are involved, including Mat Rempits [motorcycle hooligans] who are found to be absent from Friday prayers, will be arrested by Terengganu Islamic Affairs and Malay Customs Council officials and will be given counselling and religious guidance first,” said Razif. Individuals condemned to the hearse ride will also be forced to attend Islamic “counseling.”
Free Malaysia Today adds that the hearse rides are only the most dramatic in a series of new measures to impose Sharia law. The Terengganu government has also imposed fines on women deemed “inappropriately” dressed in public, inappropriate dress defined as “expos[ing] any part of her body in public that arouses passion.” Women are also banned from riding motorcycles with men who are not close blood relatives.
Among the first to protest the new law has been the Malaysia Chinese Association, a political party representing ethnic Han Chinese on living in Malaysia. As most Chinese are not Muslims, party leaders have expressed concern that they would be wrongfully maligned should they not attend religious services for a religious they do not subscribe to. Datuk Toh Chin Yaw, the state chairman of the MCA, told The Rakyat Post that his party had recommended to Terengganu officials to “to study the appropriateness and consequences of its proposal to transport Muslim men in a hearse as punishment.”
There have been indications in the past year that Malaysian society is becoming increasing Islamicized. Earlier this year, two teen Malaysian girls faced arrest for being caught on video embracing a Korean pop star on the stage of a concert, behavior considered inappropriate for Muslim girls. Women and girls have also been facing an increased danger of being exposed to the practice of female genital mutilation– long believed to be exclusive to Africa and parts of the Middle East, but increasingly conflated with Islam generally.
Last year, Malaysian Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Razak came under fire for praising Islamic State jihadists as “brave” and encouraging his party members to be more like them.