On the Beat | By Wong Chun Wai

Gender separation moves worry non-Muslims

The PAS-controlled state has also said that all female
models were required to wear the tudung (headscarf) in posters and other forms
of advertisements.

The Terengganu government recently reportedly said that it wanted hotels and
chalets to build separate swimming pools for men and women. At the same time,
it wanted to ban bikinis.

Interestingly, the Terengganu government only denied these reports after many
Malaysians, including Culture, Arts and Tourism Minister Datuk Kadir Sheikh
Fadzir, reacted angrily to the suggestion.

But it stubbornly refused to back down from its proposal to ban singer Siti
Nurhaliza from performing at a concert in conjunction with the water festival
in the state.

PAS officials boycotted the closing ceremony of the event, saying cultural
dances involving male and female dancers were not allowed.

However, thousands of other Kelantanese had the good sense to ignore the PAS
leaders by deciding to have a good time at the festival.

Non-Muslims have always stayed away from matters relating to religion but they
have become increasingly concerned by the actions of PAS.

The ban on unisex salons affects non-Muslims. It is a clear infringement of
their rights and there is no reason why they should be subjected to these

Similarly, non-Muslims have no reason to follow the ruling of separate payment
counters because there is no need for a husband and wife to be separated while
shopping together.

The decision requiring all female models to wear the tudung in advertisement
posters is another move to disregard the rights of the minority.

It is strange that non-government organisations and human rights groups that
have been so critical of the federal government have been silent on these
issues, presumably reluctant to offend their political ally.

Except for the DAP, which has disassociated itself from PAS after realising it
is impossible to change the mindset of PAS leaders, others have unashamedly
stayed away from even the mildest form of criticism.

It seems it is all right to criticise Barisan Nasional but when it comes to
PAS, one must be prepared ''to understand and convince them.'' Never mind if
they ride roughshod over the minority in the two states.

Where are the foreign groups that have been so outspoken on the threat against
the civil rights of Malaysians?

The series of announcements by the two PAS state governments appears to be a
deliberate move in the run-up to the PAS general assembly in Kota Baru at the
end of the month.

It also appears to be an attempt to reinforce its Islamic image, particularly
to appease its grassroots members, following speculation that a general
election may be held next year.

Although some PAS leaders genuinely want to win over the non-Muslims,
especially the Chinese, the recent decisions of their colleagues will not help
the Islamist party.

The Chinese community may be troubled by the MCA leadership crisis but they
will support Barisan Nasional under the leadership of Datuk Seri Dr Mahathir

The two factions in MCA may be going through a testing period but given enough
time, the healing will work as party president Datuk Seri Dr Ling Liong Sik and
his deputy, Datuk Lim Ah Lek, must understand the need to reconcile to ensure
the interest of the Chinese community is protected.

The MCA leaders now have a chance to search their hearts during this
cooling-off period and work towards winning back the support of the Chinese

But for PAS, it will have to face the onslaught not just from the MCA and
Gerakan but also its former ally DAP.