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Posted on June 24, 2008

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UPDATE at 5.46pm : The office of the State Secretary faxed a copy of the MPKB circular and pamphlet relating to the dress code to me. They appear below.

Helen Ang took the initiative to contact someone at MPKB. Her take, too, appears below.

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The circular

The text of the circular

The dress code pamphlet

Zoomed in portion of the pamphlet relating to high heels

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By Helen ang

As far as I can make out, the Kota Bharu municipal council (MPKB) issued a circular and a pamphlet, which were two separate documents.

Council public relations director Azman Md Daham clarified that the circular, which is given out annually, contained the directives on the dress code for women.

Part of the dress code or tutup aurat stipulation includes the wearing of tudung by Muslims, and this is in adherence to an amendment made in 2002 to the bylaws pertaining to commerce and trade practices, he explained.

Azman said the council at the same time distributed a pamphlet on ‘Etika pakaian wanita Islam’, that is, its guidelines on how Muslim women traders falling under the MPKB ambit ought to dress.

This pamphlet is part of its Islamic education campaign. Azman said over the phone to me that the guidelines quoted do discourage thick lipstick and striking make-up, as well as revealing clothes (the example he gave was that one’s midriff should not be bared).

He said the council while it hopes that Muslim women should comply with the advisory, however would not be enforcing the lipstick guidelines as a regulation. It has no legal authority to do so.

As such, I would not read the situation as there is imposed a ban on high heels and lipstick – which the MSM headlines are screaming.

The confusion caused by the alarmist newspaper reports could have arisen from a conflation of circular and pamphlet. The circular (per se) faxed to us contains nothing in it mentioning that the directive “was issued to prevent incidents like rape and illicit sex as well as to safeguard the morals and dignity of Muslim women” as stated by MSM.

I’m however not excluding the possibility that this may have been mentioned in the ‘decorous dressing’ pamphlet, but unable to double-check as its now after office hours that this post is written.

Taking a broader perspective, other agencies and corporate bodies, even MacDonalds have some sort of dress code. You would not see a MacD staff clacking around the restaurant in high heels, nor is it sensible to do so if you’re in the food service industry. And the Kota Bharu circular was targeted at women in the service sector. An interesting caveat is that high-heeled shoes with rubber soles are permitted.

On the matter of cosmetics, I’m sure there are unwritten codes in the private sector outside of Kelantan where women employees are similarly discouraged from thick and garish make-up, depending on one’s line of work.

Doubtless, the PAS brand of fostering morality is rather authoritarian – this topic requires a further discussion. But my immediate concern is that MSM relishes painting the Kelantan authorities in the most narrow-minded light whenever the opportunity arises. Our reaction must not rise to the MSM sensationalism bait.

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Ignorance of the law has never been a defence.

Yet, if the law is not made manifest, punishment for its breach would be most unjust.

So, be warned…

And do not blink as you pass through or you may miss the new road signs, at your own peril.

You can read all about this HERE

Posted in: Free the people