PETALING JAYA, July 4 — Three women and one man accused today officers from the Selangor Islamic Affairs Department (Jais) of abusing their powers, as they highlighted their arrest for khalwat (close proximity) last month while moving house.
At a news conference today, the Malay Muslim foursome shared their distress at the hands of the Islamic religious law enforcers through their lawyer, Latheefa Koya, saying they were nabbed while in the midst of shifting furniture into their newly-rented home in Salak Tinggi, Selangor on June 22.
Two Jais officers approached them and allegedly cited them for khalwat because their male friend, in his 20s, was alone with the three women, they related.
Khalwat means close proximity between an unmarried male and female Muslim suspected of engaging in immoral activity in an enclosed surrounding.
“This is just too easy,” Latheefa, who is with legal rights group Lawyers for Liberty, told a press conference here.
She claimed the man friend was not inside the house when the incident took place, but outside in the compound where he could be seen helping the women carry their belongings.
“Males and females can be within close proximity in any circumstances but that does not mean they are doing anything immoral.
“You can find yourself in this situation all the time. Too many a time that this khalwat arrest has been subjected to abuse,” the lawyer said.
Latheefa pointed out that there have been many similar dubious arrests made by Jais in the past but this is the first time the victims have dared to come out to tell their account.
The lawyer also relayed the complainants’ account of how the Jais officers had deemed the four had committed khalwat only after observing the group’s activities for five minutes.
“How can you tell that they have done something immoral when you’ve only monitored for five minutes?” she asked.
According to one of the four complainants, 30-year old Hanisha Abdul Rahman, Jais officers had also asked the four to take RM3,000 with them to the Shariah Court in December when they will face formal charges.
Hanisha said the move was absurd and implied that they were already guilty even before they were prosecuted.
“What did we do wrong? I am very displeased with the Jais officers,” she told reporters.
The four have since lodged a police report at the Petaling Jaya police headquarters here, and called on the authorities to take action on the Jais officers.
“We want the authorities to take immediate action on the Jais officers who clearly abused their power and humiliated us,” Hanisha said.
Latheefa said moral policing, especially those conducted by Jais, has become a major problem as its overtly zealous officers often act on self-righteousness instead of basing it on Islamic teachings when making arrests.
She added that in Islam, the term khalwat does not exist, pointing out that the so-called problem is only unique to Malaysia.
“In Islam there is only the sin known as zina (adultery) but even in zina, you have to present four credible witnesses before you can make such accusation,” she said.
Latheefa added that Islam is also a religion that enshrines privacy but pointed out that Jais, as they often do in other khalwat arrests, had failed to observe such teachings and had resorted to “snooping” just to make arrests.
The four are now demanding Jais drop the charges against them; failing to do so would result in legal action against them, Latheefa said.
The Lawyers for Liberty representative is also calling for a revamp in Jais’ standard operating procedure in khalwat cases, saying the abuses have to stop immediately.