Women in a northern Malaysian city ruled by conservative Islamists are being urged by the city’s authorities to forsake bright lipstick and noisy high-heels “to preserve their dignity and avoid rape”.
Pamphlets have been distributed recommending that Muslim women shun heavy makeup and loud shoes. The municipal officials in Kota Bharu, capital of Kelantan state, which is run by the Pan-Malaysian Islamic party, stressed that the code was merely advice for women who wish to follow the “Islamic way”.
The party’s brand of Islam – mocked by Malaysian liberals as “Taliban lite” – has already decreed that supermarkets must have separate checkout lines for men and women. Couples caught sitting too close together on park benches are hunted down by the city’s moral enforcers and fined up to £285 in the city’s sharia courts.
A directive on dress a decade ago decreed that Muslim women must wear non-transparent headscarves that cover the chest, along with loose-fitting, long-sleeved blouses. There are fines of up to £75 and as many as 20 women are punished for breaking the rule every month.
Azman Mohamad Daham, a spokesman for the municipality, said: “Our minimum guideline is they must wear headscarves.” The goal of the modesty drive was to prevent rape and safeguard the women’s dignity, he said.