Fifty-two unmarried Muslim couples face charges of sexual misconduct and possible jail terms after being caught alone in hotel rooms by Malaysia's Islamic morality police during a New Year's Day crackdown, an official said Monday.
The detained, mostly students and young factory workers, are expected to be charged with "khalwat," or "close proximity," which under Malaysia's Islamic Shariah law is described as couples not married to each other being alone together in a private place.
"We chose to have this large-scale operation on New Year's Day because many people are known to commit this offense while celebrating such a major holiday," Hidayat (a spokesman for the Selangor Islamic Department) said.
Imagine police departments in western countries or say, Japan, raiding hotels on New Year's or Valentines Day and arresting young adults who were in "close proximity" with one another. Then imagine if the law only applied to targeted groups. More from the story:
The Shariah laws apply only to Malaysia's Muslims, who make up nearly two-thirds of the population, and not to the Christian, Buddhist and Hindu minorities.
Thus, the story demonstrates how religion fuses in this context formally with the criminal justice system, and in turn how distinct groups (young people, Muslims) are criminalized for certain behaviors, while others are not (Christians, Buddhists, Hindus).
Related: "Six arrested in Indonesia for 'sexy dancing'"