Bersatu today criticised the Kota Bharu City Council for its decision to fine a non-Muslim business owner for wearing "indecent" clothing, calling it both misguided and unlawful as well as liable to creating mistrust among Malaysians.
Sasha Lyna Abdul Latif, the deputy chairman of Bersatu's legal and constitution bureau, said the council's move to penalise the woman for wearing a T-shirt and shorts was void as it exceeded the authority granted under Section 102 of the Local Government Act 1976 to make by-laws.
"Section 102 only permits the council to make by-laws pertaining to 'health, safety and well-being'. No power is granted to regulate clothing or morality," she said.
She added that while shariah enactments could regulate the clothing of Muslims, local authorities had no power to do so.
"Hence, the summons issued to the non-Muslim woman business owner is void and unlawful. The best course for the council would be to cancel the summons and suspend the operation of Section 34(2)(b) (of the Business and Industrial Trade By-Laws 2019) pending review by the state authorities or exco."
In a statement, she added that the standard imposed on Muslim women to cover the "aurat", or parts of the body that must not be revealed according to the Islamic dress code, could not be imposed on non-Muslims.
"The word 'sopan' in Section 34 (2)(b) is vague and open to manifold interpretation," she said.
"It is unfair to subject the woman to a fine when the definition of the offence is unclear."
She also said that whether the woman's clothes were decent or not was a subjective matter.
"To establish that the clothes were 'indecent' would surely require some degree of indecency which is more than just being clad in T-shirt and shorts, such as, for example, partial nudity. This is clearly not the case here."
Calling the fine "unnecessary", she said it could also create mistrust among Malaysians of all races and religions.
"It can also be perceived to be unjust as it appears to be targeting women exclusively," she said.