Kuala Lumpur (AFP) – A Malaysian man has been reprimanded by Islamic authorities for “indecent dressing” after he was caught wearing shorts in public on the way to a football match, officials and reports said Wednesday.
The case in Kelantan, a state ruled by an influential Islamist party, sparked widespread anger, and is the latest example of what critics describe as creeping conservatism in the mostly Muslim country.
Wan Khairul Hayyee Wali had stopped off to buy a burger from a street-side stall as he drove Monday to play futsal, five-a-side football typically played on an indoor pitch.
But religious enforcement officers spotted the 30-year-old and handed him a notice saying that he had breached Islamic regulations dictating that Muslims should not wear revealing attire.
“It came as a shock to me when a religious department enforcement officer gave me a notice saying I have flouted the Shariah Criminal Enactment for exposing my knees,” he was quoted as saying by the Star newspaper.
“Seriously, they can’t expect me to wear a sarong to play futsal,” he added.
Mohamad Fadzuli Mohamad Zain, deputy director of the Kelantan state religious enforcement unit, confirmed Khairul had been pulled aside for wearing shorts in the city of Kota Baru.
“On (Monday) 11 people including Khairul were given summonses for indecent dressing,” he told AFP. Among the others reprimanded were four women whose outfits were deemed to be too tight, he said.
Mohamad Fadzuli said Khairul had been ordered to attend a counselling session and would have to pay a fine of 1,000 ringgit ($240) if he failed to turn up.
Opposition lawmaker Mohammad Hatta Ramli criticised the sanction imposed in the state ruled by the Pan-Malaysian Islamic Party as “simply ludicrous”.
“This is a misguided action,” he told AFP, adding it would “open the floodgates to all sorts of enforcement”.
Multi-ethnic Malaysia, which is home to substantial ethnic Chinese and Indian minorities, has seen a traditionally tolerant brand of Islam eroded due to the growing influence of Muslim politicians and hardliners.