G25, a group of reform-minded Malaysians, has raised concerns about additional police resources being provided to the Selangor Islamic Religious Department (Jais).
"The G25 and other Muslim NGOs have repeatedly voiced our concern about criminalising personal sins and moral policing.
"In addition, we are concerned that the scarce resources of the police are being diverted from combating real criminal activities on Malaysian streets and homes which are affecting public security," the group said in a statement today.
Director-general of Islamic Development Department of Malaysia (Jakim) Othman Mustapha had announced that two officers and a sergeant from police will be placed at Jais to assist the department in syariah law enforcement.
He also said that this was a trial project and the intention was is to eventually extend this arrangement to the Islamic religious departments of other states.
G25 pointed out that the public expects police to use all their available resources to perform their core functions.
Under the Police Act 1967, the group said the functions of police include the maintenance of law and order, the preservation of peace and security of Malaysia, the prevention and detection of crime, the apprehension and prosecution of offenders and the collection of security intelligence.
"Moral policing does not appear to have been included in the list of duties of the police under the Police Act," the group noted.
“It is more important to protect the safety of the Malaysian public than to harass individuals for personal sins.
"Moral policing does not improve the quality of living in Malaysian cities. Reducing the crime rate does," they said.
'Eradicate criminal activities'
The G25 also pointed out that security is important to maintain a consistently positive investment climate, adding that the police must dedicate all their resources to eradicating criminal activities and improving public security.
"Doing away with moral policing will not adversely affect the public security. Should religious departments then be taking away the already limited police resources?" they asked.
Especially in the current economic situation, the group said it would be good financial management to allocate resources where it was more needed.
Additional resources to the religious departments for moral policing and syariah law enforcement should be the lowest priority, it said.
"Police should protect their professional reputation in law enforcement.
"The G25 fears that their involvement in moral policing will cast a dark shadow on the system of justice in Malaysia, especially when there is a miscarriage of justice and the police are seen arresting innocent citizens for religious offences," it said.
The group also raised concerns that report of police actions on private love affairs, which are criminalised in Malaysia, will scare away inward tourism.
This will cripply one of the country's biggest and fastest growing industries, it pointed out.
"Another concern is that the government will be seen as using police power to enforce the Islamisation of the country, a perception which will frighten not only foreigners but also its own citizens.
'The fear is that the police are being taken over by the religious establishment to make Malaysia an Islamic state," the G25 said.