Malaysian officials go undercover to spy on non-fasting Muslims

KUALA LUMPUR • Malaysian officials are disguising themselves as cooks and waiters in an attempt to catch Muslims who do not fast during Ramadan, with a rights group yesterday blasting the "disgraceful act of spying".

Thirty-two enforcement officers from a local council in the Muslim-majority country are going undercover at food outlets as part of the scheme, the New Straits Times newspaper reported.

Muslims are required to fast from dawn until dusk during Islam's holiest month, unless there are special circumstances such as illness.

While Muslims in multi-ethnic Malaysia have traditionally followed a tolerant form of Islam, critics say conservative attitudes have been gaining ground in recent years.

A team in Segamat district, in southern Johor state, will be monitoring 185 outlets.

"We have specially selected enforcement officers who are dark skinned for the undercover job," Segamat Municipal Council president Mohamad Masni Wakiman was cited as saying by the paper.

"They sound convincing when they speak in Indonesian and Pakistani lingo, so that customers will believe they are really hired to cook and serve meals, and take menu orders."

 

Many employees at food outlets in Malaysia are migrant workers.

If Muslims are seen ordering food during the daytime, the officers will secretly take pictures of them and contact the local religious affairs department for further action, Mr Masni said.

Malaysia has a dual-track legal system, with Muslims subject to Islamic laws in certain areas.

In Johor, Muslims who skip fasting can face up to six months in jail or a fine of up to RM1,000 (S$330), or both.

Sisters in Islam, a group promoting the rights of Muslim women in Malaysia, said the scheme was "shameful, and gives the wrong impression of Islam in the eyes of fellow Muslims and people from other faiths".

AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on May 24, 2019, with the headline 'Malaysian officials go undercover to spy on non-fasting Muslims'. Print Edition | Subscribe