Islamic officials in Malaysia yesterday ruled that "black metal" music was unacceptable for Muslims, saying it can cause listeners to rebel against religion.
Black metal is akin to hard rock music, but often uses occult imagery and lyrics. It emerged in Europe in the early 1980s and has made inroads in Southeast Asia in recent years, though its popularity has remained limited to underground rock fans.
Some people in Malaysia -- a moderate, mostly Muslim nation -- have urged authorities to clarify whether Muslims should shun the music after police on New Year's Eve detained some 380 revelers at an alleged black metal concert in Kuala Lumpur for suspected drug use and other offenses.
The National Fatwa Council, comprising Islamic scholars hand-picked by Malaysia's king, said yesterday that the themes of black metal music were prohibited by Islam, claiming they could lead Muslims to stray from their beliefs, consume alcohol and indulge in sexual misconduct.
Authorities plan to enact new laws allowing charges to be laid against Muslims who form black metal bands, council spokesman Shukor Husin was quoted as saying by the national news agency, Bernama.
"We are trying to prevent any increase in our society in the number of such band members," Shukor said following a meeting by the council to investigate the issue.
Penalties for taking part in black metal groups were not immediately clear, and Shukor didn't say whether it would also be an offense to attend black metal concerts or listen to such music.
Phone calls to the council's office were not immediately answered.
Some 60 percent of Malaysia's 26 million people are ethnic Malay Muslims, who are subject to Islamic laws as well as the country's secular legal system.
The council's rulings do not affect the ethnic Chinese and Indian minorities, majority of whom are Buddhists, Christians and Hindus.