KUALA LUMPUR, Dec 25 — It was the nightmare before Christmas for Muslim Wan Saiful Wan Jan, who claimed to have been rudely woken up at 3.20am yesterday by a group of Islamic religious officers on an “inspection” of a hotel in Parit Buntar, Perak.
The chief executive of think tank Institute for Democracy and Economic Affairs accused the district Islamic religious office of allegedly violating his privacy in the early morning check of the room he shared with his mother, by a group of six to seven male officers.
“I think it’s really unfair, this kind of moral policing,” he told Malay Mail Online when contacted today.
According to Wan Saiful, he was woken up upon hearing a “loud knock” on his room door in the wee hours of the morning, which he described as “quite intimidating” for someone out of town, and was met by a man who flashed a card identifying him as an officer from the Islamic religious before insisting on entering his room.
Wan Saiful said he had tried to reason with the men as his mother was sleeping in the room, recounting his explanations: “My mother is elderly, she’s asleep, she’s tired, she’s had a long journey yesterday”.
“But they insisted on coming in because it’s pemeriksaan,” he said, using the Malay word meaning inspection.
He added that the men entered his hotel room and left, after looking it over.
Wan Saiful stressed that the purported officers had “no warrant”, saying: “All they had was a card which can be made in any shop on the streets.”
“There was really no way of finding out (their identity), they were standing there, with the body language of ‘I’m coming in whether you like it or not’,” he said.
He admitted to being initially worried for his safety and his mother’s safety, saying that the men who were all wearing jackets that appear to be a uniform, however, managed to convince him that they were from the religious authority.
His concerns were then turned to avoiding a scene and disturbing other hotel guests, as well as waking up his mother, saying he did not dare to deny the men entry into his room.
“I don’t want to create a scene, I don’t want to create trouble, I don’t want to be accused of preventing them from doing their job,” he said, fearing that he would be accused or prosecuted for not cooperating.
“You can’t just come barging in. It’s not Islamic as well. She usually wears a tudung (Islamic headgear) and they know she was asleep,” he said, saying that his mother was not wearing any headgear during the raid.
Wan Saiful said he believed the religious enforcers were from the local religious authority, with a check with hotel staff this morning revealing that the group of men had visited three rooms with the room number ending with “8”, including his room — “308”.
When asked if he would be lodging a police report over the religious raid without a warrant, Wan Saiful said that he did not intend to turn this into a big issue, but merely wanted other Malaysians to be aware of their rights to privacy.
“I don’t think I would turn this thing into too big of an issue. My real concern is the public is aware that there may be some wrongdoing happening there and just because people come from religious department doesn’t put them on the right side all the time,” he said.
“The authorities should only invade your privacy if at least they have a warrant that allows them to do so,” he added.
For now, Wan Saiful intends to write to the religious authority to voice his dissatisfaction with its officers’ conduct, saying that they “owe” him an explanation for picking his room for the raid.
“I don’t intend to let this off easily,” said Wan Saiful, who was in Parit Buntar the previous evening for a speaking engagement.
“I wonder if the authorities have visited five-star hotels where VIPs hang out and if they would treat the hotels the same way,” he said.
Wan Saiful said such raids have been happening in the country and risk leaving a bad impression on foreigners visiting Malaysia.
“It paints a very negative picture of Malaysia. Just imagine if it was a foreign tourist and not me, just imagine what kind of country they will see us (as),” he said, having experienced such a raid for the first time in his life.
The management of Melor Inn Hotel was unable to confirm the incident when contacted by Malay Mail Online at the time of writing due to a change in the work shift.
Malay Mail Online was also unable to reach the Islamic Religious Office of Parit Buntar as today is a national public holiday.