On the Beat | By Wong Chun Wai

Extension of the painful cut

It’s really mind-boggling but this is democracy.

IT’S really a hair-raising issue. And by that I mean shocking rather than spine-chilling. I am sure few Malaysians could even imagine that we would come to this – hair salons in Kota Baru being ordered to remove posters of female models with uncovered hair.

If there is such a thing as hair extension, then here is a case of an extension of an earlier directive to owners of non-Muslim hair salons to stop their female hair stylists from cutting the hair of male customers.

That was the beginning of the painful cut, you may say. After all, in PAS-led Kelantan, there is such a thing as gender segregation at the supermarket check-outs. At state-approved concerts, the audience also has to be split up.

There were similar scenarios in Kedah when the previous PAS state government banned female artistes from performing at Chinese New Year shows in malls.

In fact, the Kota Baru rule on uncovered hair also applies to pictures of models, especially Muslims, who are featured on advertisement billboards.

As with most rules, where religion comes into play, it is always difficult to reverse them once they are enforced, given their sensitive nature.

Well, that’s what happens when voters give their mandate to religious hardliners. Unfortunately, the voters also included non-Muslims who were warned during the campaign for the general election. But many went ahead to endorse the hardliners.

In Temerloh, Barisan Nasional’s Datuk Saifuddin Abdullah lost to PAS Youth hardliner Nasrudin Hassan, who has made a name for himself protesting against every concert that comes to town.

He also organises yearly protests against Valentine’s Day celebrations.

The voters, sadly, dumped Saifuddin, who is known for his moderate stance, in favour of Nasruddin.

It’s really mind-boggling but this is democracy for you. The reality, as we all know, is that many non-Malay voters, angry with the Barisan, refused to listen to anything negative about PAS. Anyone who warned about the nature of PAS invariably invoked the wrath of many non-Malay voters.

But in the end, liberal-minded leaders like Saifuddin, who already had to face tremendous internal pressure from the right-wingers in the party, got rejected.

In Johor, PAS national information chief Suhaizan Kayat, who openly forbids Muslims from wishing Christians “Merry Christmas”, also contested in the general election but he was rejected.

And now, the Kota Baru local council is pushing hard to remove posters of female models who do not cover their heads.

But there should be a line drawn here – non-Muslims have every right to protest as the hair salons affected are run by non-Muslims and the models featured in the pictures are likely to be non-Muslims as well.

Even PAS Supporters Congress chairman Hu Pang Chaw reportedly said the move was not business-friendly and that it violated a local council by-law which required only Muslim models appearing in advertisements to cover their hair.

Well, what I cannot fathom is why Hu is still supporting the Islamist party despite the many outrageous decisions affecting non-Muslims.

The local council has even insisted that married couples, including non-Muslims, must sit separately in cinemas.

If we are not careful, it will not come as a surprise if PAS insists that non-Muslim models for hair shampoo advertisements must also cover their heads.

Much sadder, the protest against the ban on these posters has, again, come from the same political parties and individuals.

What has happened to the critical voices who are often so quick to jump in to post angry messages on their Facebook and Twitter on a wide variety of issues?

It’s another small step in the infringement of the rights of non-Muslims, but there will be larger implications in the long run. I am sure many of our moderate and fair-minded Muslims share the same sentiments.

Political expediency may be a factor but the silence of some politicians who claim to represent non-Muslims is indeed disturbing.