Malaysiakini Letter

Tightening social control will alienate people

Jeffrey
Published:  |  Modified:

I read in the report of The Sun on Feb 22 that the 4B Youth Movement, also known as Pasukan Gerak Khas Belia 4B, was launched by Malacca Chief Minister last week in Malacca to spy on Muslim couples and report them to the religious authorities.

This controversial 'snoops' or 'peeping Toms' squad already '... scored its first success by helping the religious authorities arrest two couples for 'khalwat' in Sungai Rambai, Jasin and Batang Tiga' and was, according to Malacca 4B deputy-president Hassan Rahman, '... needed to complement the enforcement activities of the religious authorities, as there are only seven religious officers for Malacca'.

Who knows what will be next the installation of rotating closed-circuit television cameras in strategically placed areas of secluded public parks and lovers' haunts to overcome this problem of shorthandedness?

What better ways are there but for those seeking a political platform or opportunities for publicity to inaugurate similar movements in other states to spy on the people? An avenue is now provided for those so inclined (for power or for voyeurism) to be recruited into these 'snoop squads'.

It was a disconcerting that the movement also planned to rope in non-Muslims to spy on other non-Muslim couples. If this trend is unchecked, the country will fast become a totalitarian state. This is evinced by the fact that no heed is paid to the advice of the Malaysian cabinet that only criminal matters ought to be dealt with by the police whilst that of morality was to be left to the family.

What more, arrangements are now afoot for non-Muslims to spy on other non-Muslim couples even though it has been a time-honoured principle that non-Muslims are not subject to the rigours of Syariah laws and are accorded the right to the freedom of movement, association and privacy as guaranteed by the Federal Constitution.

In spite of the national agenda of promoting 'muhibbah' and breaking down the walls of segregation, the overzealous have no qualms to segregate even their spies and peeping Toms into the Muslim and non-Muslim dichotomy when carrying out their snooping.

If non-Muslims' right to freedom of movement, association and privacy are guaranteed by the Constitution and are not abridged, so too, Muslims ought to be equally entitled to no less of such a freedom guaranteed.

It is not just a question of fairness for all.

It is ironic that Malay Muslims, who are accorded special bumiputera privileges for their economic improvement, should however be subject to special restrictions as regards their freedom of movement, association and privacy. The privilege of economic improvement cannot compensate for restrictions on movement, association, privacy and personal choices.

Throughout the ages, freedom has been a requisite condition for the pursuit of happiness. And there can be no freedom if there is no freedom of personal choices or if given such personal choices, the freedom to fail when giving in, as we sometimes do, to human frailties.

What moral policing entails is the employment of the power of the state to force citizens to conform to prescribed virtues in disregard of their human frailties. As most of us are mere ordinary mortals and not saints, a rigid moral policing will only make many people extremely unhappy, alienated and disaffected except, perhaps, those naturally inclined towards hypocrisy.

The tightening of social control by moral police and spies will only make the crme de la crme of this country - whether Muslims or non-Muslim - emigrate elsewhere to places where there are no restrictions, an aggravation of the problem of brain drain. And for those remaining behind, they will probably wonder what is the difference between voting for PAS or the Barisan Nasional.

Moral policing and snooping around are often associated with the practices of some of the Middle Eastern countries that are neither renowned for modernity nor economic development.

As we pride ourselves on being a model Islamic nation ahead in terms of modernity and prosperity when compared to large swathes of these Middle East countries, we cannot aspire to lead by following them.

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