KUALA LUMPUR, Nov 14 – Just one month after Minister in the Prime Minister’s Department Mujahid Yusof Rawa was reported to have said that religious authorities would no longer become moral police by conducting late night khalwat raids in homes and hotels, the presence of a “vigilante” group doing the same in Kedah has been exposed.
The Malaysian Insight reported that it had followed the “Badar squad” on a raid on Sunday. The raids carried out from 11pm to 3am saw the Badar vigilantes search six motels.
Five couples were detained in the course of the night. They were brought to the Padang Temusu cemetery, some 5km from Sg Petani. Afterwards, the couples were taken to the mosque to be counselled, according to the news portal.
“Some of them cry at the cemetery. I don’t think this affects the image of Islam, as I have been advised by the mosque’s ustaz and imam,” Badar founder and leader Mohamad Azhaar was quoted as saying.
He also admitted that the group, comprising 20 to 40 men, have been operating for the past two years, staking out budget hotels and parks almost every weekend in search of unmarried couples having illicit sex.
“We have caught hundreds of couples in that time,” Azhaar told TMI.
He added that raids are conducted during the weekends based on tip-offs from the public and “intelligence” reports from Badar members.
Police, state govt, religious authority aware of group’s illegal actions
The fact remains that this group is illegal and carrying out their activities illegally, as the police and Kedah religious authorities have confirmed.
However, the police and the Department of Islamic Affairs Kedah (JAIK) seem to have turned a blind eye for the past two years.
The only response from these authorities has been that Badar should just register themselves under the Registrar of Societies (RoS), so that they are not seen as an illegal body.
Interestingly, Sungai Petani MP Johari Abdul from PKR too supports this vigilante action, saying it was done with “good intentions”.
“Their intentions are good but we have laws to deal with such couples. It’s not right to take them to the cemetery. That’s excessive.
“I support what they do but they must operate within the law. They should work with the state religious department and the police so that they are not misunderstood by the public,” Johari was quoted as saying by TMI.
As the state assemblyman for Gurun, Johari is also the executive councillor in charge of religious in the state government.
“Approval letter” from police, say vigilantes
Badar’s defence is that its members only conduct surveillance at hotels and raids, after getting prior approval from local mosque officials and also filing a police report stating its intentions beforehand.
Azhaar said the police report is used as the “approval letter” for the group to show to hotels and motels when asked for any authorisation for their actions in disturbing the guests and knocking on doors.
“However, if the hotel doesn’t allow us to go in, we won’t go in. We will just wait outside.
“It’s not that we don’t trust the state religious authorities, but we feel that we can lighten their load as their enforcement unit has only five to six officers while we have almost 40 people,” he said, according to TMI.
Dr Mahathir: Khalwat raids do not reflect Islam
Following The Star report on Mujahid’s comments, the minister in charge of religious affairs denied he had said that “knocks on the door in the middle of the night will be stopped”.
However, his boss, Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad said such aggressive action by certain authorities in anti “khalwat” (close proximity) operations, to the extent of entering people’s homes, hotel rooms, does not reflect the true image of Islam.
Kedah Menteri Besar Datuk Seri Mukhriz Mahathir played it safe however, while contradicting his father, the prime minister.
He was reported to have said that the state government had not taken a stand on how to deal with enforcement against khalwat.
“Although we still have not yet got a stand, we are always following the issue, including looking at feedback from the federal government,” he was quoted as saying by Bernama.
Kedah authorities waiting for a death to occur before taking action?
The question for the Kedah government to answer is what are the limits of vigilante actions?
Will action against such vigilantes only be taken when someone jumps out of a window and dies, or there is a tussle and someone dies from a stab wound?
This is a question of lives being put at risk, that of individuals who may not really be guilty but just don’t have their documentation, let alone visitors or tourists to the state. What about the vigilante members lives too, if they are attacked following a raid.
No point crying over spilt milk afterwards and calling for inquiries and reviews, not to mention investigations, with the police being complicit in such vigilante action.
Volunteers” carrying out raids should help the needy instead
Couldn’t these volunteer vigilantes instead focus on doing good works according to their faith in helping the needy in their community, among other things.
There are many who need such help, or the state government might as well be the first to declare Sungei Petani the country’s first “poverty-free town”.
On that note, do the Kedah government, religious authorities, and police also approve of other vigilantes taking action against other matters considered a crime under civil law, such as theft, abuse, bullying, and even cheating cases.
Could a group of investors form a group and take action against individuals with whom they had given money but with no returns? After all, they would have made a police report beforehand as their “approval letter” to go and carry out their own “raid” at the premises.