Sun, Feb 23, 2014 - Page 4 News List

Malaysian Muslims upset over ‘apocalyptic’ garments

AFP, KUALA LUMPUR

A Malaysian conservative group’s insistence that Muslim men wearing silk is a “sign of the apocalypse” prompted a call on Friday for religious authorities to study whether to impose a fatwa on the fabric, a report said.

An activist with the conservative Muslim Consumers Association of Malaysia told reporters on Thursday that silk was forbidden for men, citing Islamic literature that describes the prophet Mohammed as taking that stance.

Such literature “also states that one of the tanda kiamat [signs of the apocalypse] is when pure silk is being worn,” association activist Sheikh Abdul Kareem Khadaied was quoted saying by the Malay Mail.

An official with Perkasa, a non-governmental organization that advocates stridently for the rights of the Muslim ethnic Malay majority, waded in on Friday, saying the country’s National Fatwa Council needed to dispel “confusion” over the issue.

“Right now, we don’t know what to do, what can we wear? We have to clear this matter up quick,” Perkasa’s youth chief Irwan Fahmi Ideris told the Malay Mail Online.

He did not specifically call for a fatwa, or ban, saying silk should be allowed if the wearer’s body was properly covered.

The activist groups could not immediately be reached for comment.

No response has yet been seen by the National Fatwa Council, which issues religious bans on activities considered un-Islamic.

A silk fatwa could signal a fashion disaster for Malaysia, where the colorful traditional batik shirt design — often printed on silk — is considered a national heritage item.

Batik is essential attire for government figures and at formal functions in Malaysia and Indonesia.

Though Malaysia practices moderate Islam, concern has risen in the multi-faith country over perceived Islamization, particularly after elections in May last year in which the 57-year-old Muslim-dominated government barely clung to power.

Islamic groups have since stepped up rhetoric against what they call threats to the Muslim-led “status quo.” About one-third of Malaysia’s 28 million people practice other faiths.

In particular, tensions have spiked in recent weeks over demands by Islamic conservatives that Malay-speaking Christians end a centuries-old practice of using the Arabic word Allah to refer to the Christian God.

Among its recent fatwas, the council issued one on yoga for Muslims in 2008, saying it could erode their faith.

In 2012 ruled against foreign exchange trading by individuals, saying it “creates confusion” among Muslims.

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