RTD dress code shows conservative Islam creeping into civil service, activist says

Source: The Malay Mail Online

Datuk Noor Farida Ariffin   ― File pic
Datuk Noor Farida Ariffin ― File pic

KUALA LUMPUR, June 10 ― Malaysia’s civil service appears to be increasingly influenced by conservative Islam, an activist said today amid controversy surrounding the Road Transport Department (RTD) dress code that prohibits short skirts and sleeveless tops.

Datuk Noor Farida Ariffin, member of the moderate G25 group comprising Malay former high-ranking civil servants, said it was “absurd” and “unacceptable” for the RTD to force an ethnic Chinese woman, who had worn a skirt ending just above the knee, to don a sarong in order to get service at one of its offices.

“It shows the infiltration of religious conservatism into public administration,” Noor Farida told Malay Mail Online.

“This is a cause for concern especially when it also encroaches on the rights of non-Muslims. The JPJ is acting beyond its powers and mandate conferred under the Road Transport Act if such is its policy,” she added, using the Malay acronym for the RTD.

The RTD issued a public apology yesterday to the woman whose complaint on Facebook on Monday went viral, saying that there is no regulation mandating that sarongs be provided to visitors.

RTD maintained, however, that it imposes a dress code on all visitors, much like that imposed by all other government ministries and departments. RTD’s dress code prohibits visitors from wearing skirt lengths above the knee, shorts and sleeveless shirts.

The government department under the Transport Ministry did not provide the rationale for its dress code that appears to be Islamic, as Muslims are prohibited in Islam from exposing their “aurat”.

“Aurat” in Malay refers to “intimate body parts” that Muslims must cover with clothing.

Social activist Datin Paduka Marina Mahathir said the sarong incident was “ridiculous”.

“Is the efficiency of the JPJ compromised by the sight of people’s legs?” Marina toldMalay Mail Online.

“If there are JPJ staff who feel they cannot give optimum service because of the sight of people’s legs, then they should be removed from the frontline service. Only the strong-hearted should be allowed to meet the public. Personally, I would object more to bad breath and body odour,” added the eldest child of former prime minister Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad.

Tariq Ismail, founder of civil rights group Aura Merdeka which backed the iam#26 petition, said RTD’s dress code was “silly”.

“Our civil service needs to set their priorities straight ― to manage their relevant department and to be more efficient,” Tariq told Malay Mail Online.



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