In Malaysia, new entertainment rules restrict dressing, lyrics and crowd interaction

The YouTube video ‘Perempuan melayu dicabul atas pentas oleh mat kpop B1A4 semalam’ drew angry response from netizens. — YouTube videograb
The YouTube video ‘Perempuan melayu dicabul atas pentas oleh mat kpop B1A4 semalam’ drew angry response from netizens. — YouTube videograb

KUALA LUMPUR, April 18 — Entertainers coming to Malaysia will now have to adhere to new rules prepared by the Malaysian Islamic Development Department (Jakim), which imposes limitations on stage performances, dress and behaviour codes and gender segregation for attendees.

The rules, which were released by the department this week, also stipulate that an artist should not have a criminal record, whether in a Shariah or civil court, and should maintain a “noble personality” and “good morals”, even outside the performance.

During a performance, the artist must “dress decently” in attire that covers their “aurat”, which refers to the “intimate body parts” that Muslims must cover with clothing.

Performances, songs, events and music videos must not insult religious sensitivities, the nation and any race, while the use of any symbolism that go against Islamic teachings and faith is also forbidden.

For stage performances, Jakim insists that jokes told should be “sparing”, must “toe the line”, and should not lead to “extreme laughter”. Entertainers are also forbidden from making light of “serious and mournful matters”.

Meanwhile, song lyrics should contain “goodness and pure values”, in addition to “bringing awareness” and “leading to repentance”.

The music accompanying the lyrics, on the other hand, should “motivate positive atmosphere” and “bring peace”, instead of evoking “negative emotions that contradict Islamic teachings”.

Finally, the rules also ban interaction between men and women attendees of any performance.

The new guidelines were drafted last year but were only approved in the 107th convention of the National Fatwa Committee on February 10 and 11 this year, and superseded the first version which was published in 2007.

The previous guidelines, which included none of the abovementioned rules, were focused on prohibiting elements of vice and idolatry in performances, in addition to ensuring that entertainment events “benefit the well-being of the public”.

According to Jakim, the new list is meant to assist the authorities in ensuring that entertainment programmes are based on the Islamic faith and codes, and moral values.

Although the guidelines are not considered as binding law, Minister in the Prime Minister’s Department, Datuk Seri Jamil Khir Baharom, had in January, advised approving authorities to remind event organisers to adhere to the list made by Jakim.

The new guidelines also specify that any entertainment events must be referred to the authorities for guidance.

Following a controversial mini-concert featuring South Korean band B1A4 which saw three-tudung clad Malay fans hugging on stage, Jakim had said that the Federal Territories Islamic Department (Jawi) was empowered to act on the organisers as it was under its jurisdiction.

“Did all the agencies and the organiser of the event take heed of this guideline? This concert was not referred to Jakim, in fact Jakim had no idea about the event,” said Jakim director-general Datuk Othman Mustapha.

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