KUALA LUMPUR, April 18 — Former de facto law minister Datuk Zaid Ibrahim will contest the legality of the Kelantan government’s move to enforce a halt to street trade during Muslim evening prayers.
Comparing the new regulation to those introduced by the Taliban in Afghanistan, the former Umno leader who is now with opposition party DAP argued that there was no legal basis for such a policy.
He accused the PAS government of forcing its ideology on Kelantan residents by way of regulations, citing the latest restriction on traders as well as rules on attire and gender segregation introduced since it came to power in 1990.
“That is okay if you are in a country where the Taliban or Mullah rules. But in a democracy, policies must be predicated on legal basis,” he told Malay Mail Online.
The suit is aimed at proving that there is no legal foundation for the Kelantan government to impose laws based on their interpretation of Islam, Zaid explained.
“Because over the years they have capitalised on the ignorance and the fear of the people,” he said.
Stall operators at Kelantan’s night markets face closure if they do not pause their business for 15 minutes during Muslim evening prayers each day, the state government said.
Kelantan’s Local Government, Housing, Youth and Sports Committee chairman Datuk Abdul Fattah Mahmood said local authorities throughout the state have been given clear orders to ensure that all trade activities are suspended immediately for 15 minutes as soon as it is time for Maghrib, or the evening Muslim prayer.
Zaid said Kelantanese are too afraid to question many of the Kelantan government’s hardline policies, adding this has emboldened the “clerical leadership” to impose laws according to their whims and fancies.
“See Muslims don’t like to be accused of being jahil (ignorant),” he said.
“It’s embarrassing for them so they don’t ask questions when they get arrested for khalwat, for not fasting, or charged for wearing tight clothing or if they wear too much mascara, they don’t challenge those decisions.
“So I want to start something new”.
Zaid claimed that the Kelantan government failed to make the distinction between public policies and personal belief, saying the latter appeared to be favoured more than what really works for Kelantan residents.
“The law must come first,” he stressed.
Kelantan is ruled by Islamist political party PAS and has a predominantly Muslim population. Malaysia’s 2010 census showed Kelantan to be 95.2 per cent Muslims, followed by 3.8 per cent Buddhists and all other religions at between 0.2 per cent and 0.3 per cent each.
Muslims are obliged to pray five times a day, with the Maghrib prayer performed after sunset.
The prayer times may differ from month to month, with the current Maghrib prayer times listed online throughout this month for Kelantan falling between 7.20pm to 7.23pm.
Besides the daily prayers, Muslims also attend Friday prayers at mosques.