KOTA BARU (THE STAR/ASIA NEWS NETWORK) - No tudung, no business. The Kelantan local authorities have started another controversy with a warning that they will enforce an Islamic dress code on those in business.
Local authorities here have initiated Operasi Gempur Aurat (Operation Aurat Attack), imposing a maximum fine of RM500 (S$195) on women traders and workers who do not cover their hair and wear tight outfits.
The ruling applies to Muslim women working in wet markets, supermarkets, hypermarkets, food outlets and all other commercial centres that require operating licences from the local authorities.
Non-Muslim business operators also risk being fined if their Muslim employees do not abide by the dress code as certain employers require their workers to wear tight-fitting uniforms and short-sleeve shirts.
Kota Baru Municipal Council's Youth, Women and Islamic Development Committee chairman Nor Azariza Mohd Alawi said the crackdown was in response to public complaints.
"The dress code is one of the conditions for business permits issued by local councils," he said.
Nor Azariza said the ruling was only imposed on those "interacting" with members of the public. He said the crackdown in Kota Baru would end in December.
Since Ops Aurat Attack was initiated in September, 34 offenders have been fined.
In November 2012, the Kelantan local authorities raised eyebrows when they enforced a ruling barring hairdressers from servicing clients of a different gender.
The council's Islamic Development director Ropein Hassan said that a plea of ignorance would not be accepted as the dress code was clearly stipulated in the business permit.
He said the council had also made it mandatory for traders, including non-Muslims, to attend courses on ways to conduct their business from an Islamic perspective.
"We took the initiative to educate them first before enforcing the by-laws (on attire)," he said.
He said 3,000 traders had taken part in the refresher course, with 10,000 more on the waiting list.
According to the 2010 Population and Housing census of Malaysia, the bulk of the 1.4 million Kelantanese are Muslims (96.8 per cent), followed by Buddhists (2.5 per cent), Christians (0.2 per cent), Hindus (0.2 per cent), and others (0.3 per cent).