KUALA LUMPUR, March 18 ― In a bid to show “how Sharia law looks like”, UK broadcaster Channel 4 recently published a short documentary on khalwat raids in Malaysia.
Titled Muslim, Trans and banned under its “Unreported World” segment, Channel 4 journalist Marcel Theroux joined officers from one of Malaysia’s state Islamic departments as they check hotel registers and arrest Muslims who commit khalwat (close proximity) as well as transgenders, the latter who religious authorities here deem as sexual deviants.
“If they are not married, we arrest them, and bring them to our office for further questioning,” one officer said in the clip which carries English subtitles.
The journalist expressed surprise in the video that someone can be arrested for “being with a girlfriend”.
“You want to be respectful of other people's culture, but on the other hand, you remember being 24 years old, and you think is it possible for me, as an adult, being arrested for being in a hotel room with my girlfriend?” he said.
The officers also explained that they can arrest transgenders on the street for not behaving and dressing according to their gender.
“A man should behave like a man and a woman should behave like a woman. We must respect the divine laws and sharia laws,” the officer in the video said.
Transgenders interviewed in the video also said they have been repeatedly arrested because they were also Muslims and had been caught crossdressing.
Respective state religious authorities all conduct regular raids and moral policing on Muslims here.
The penalty for khalwat is a maximum of two years' jail.
Malay moderates movement G25 and Perlis mufti Datuk Dr Mohd Asri Zainul Abidin have both criticised khalwat raids before.
G25’s Datuk Noor Farida Ariffin said that khalwat is a “personal sin” and not a “crime”, while Asri said it is wrong to “snoop on others.”
Arrested transgenders are normally subjected to religious counselling and heavy fines, varying in degree according to each state's Shariah enactments.
Last October, the Federal Court overturned the Court of Appeal landmark decision that had declared as unconstitutional the Negri Sembilan Shariah Criminal Enactment that criminalises cross-dressing.