The religious officers raided actress Faye Kusairi’s family home after someone reported her for being “too close” to a person of the opposite sex in an isolated place, an offense punishable in Malaysia with up to two years in prison. It was late at night and they didn’t even have a warrant.
Aiming to catch the lovers in an inappropriate situation, five agents cut off the safety grill of her family penthouse duplex and broke the fireproof door to go in. But Faye was not even there: she was out with a friend. Instead the agents found her father, mother, and brother.
That happened in April 2016; she has not yet received yet an official apology. “They told my father that they were looking for me with someone else’s husband,” Faye says. At least they fixed the door.
False and inaccurate denunciations are a recurring pattern, a particularly concerning trend given the authority of Malaysia’s religious officers, who investigate violations of the sharia code. “Their powers are similar to that of a police investigating a civil offense, i.e murder,” according to Malaysian lawyer Fahri Azzat.
In December, officials broke into a police officer’s apartment on the fourth floor. Instead of a couple caught in the act, they found a single woman in one of the rooms — and an open window. Her lover had jumped from the window to evade arrest and later died in the hospital. Another policeman also suffered several injuries after jumping to escape from the morality agents that night.
The religious police are not only looking for espoused lovers in hotels and homes. Among the offenses that breach the sharia code is pre-marital sex or extra-marital sex, alcohol consumption, not fasting during Ramadan, or not attending mosque on Fridays. The agents also persecute Shiite Muslims as well as homosexuals and transsexuals, who are considered men who “dress or act” as women.