Press Statement

Reports of Kedah town’s ‘sin’ patrols are an appalling display of vigilantism that blatantly disregards the rule of law
15 November 2018

We refer to the alarming news report detailing a vigilante group “Skuad Badar” in Sungai Petani surveilling and raiding couples suspected of having sex out of wedlock and other “illicit activities” or “khalwat”.

These reports are very troubling as they expose a form of unlawful mob rule that’s been going on in Kedah for 2 years now, a blatant disregard for the rule of law that authorities must step in and put to an end to now.

Groups like these have absolutely no jurisdiction to act as moral police. In essence, they are brazenly impersonating authorities under a charade of legitimacy by wearing uniforms and using so called “approval letters” to get past hotel staff and conduct raids. But these letters are no more than police reports filed by the group themselves stating their intentions to raid. 

In addition to this, they dubiously claim legitimacy by gaining the consent of local mosque officials as if this actually permits them to encroach on people’s private lives.  In fact it is un-Islamic to breach the privacy of any individuals with the purpose to humiliate and shame such persons in the pretext of curbing immoral activities. 

For those who refuse to open their doors and cooperate, the group will call in the state religious affairs department to intercede. This amounts to no less than a threat or a form of blackmail. A person has no obligation to cooperate with strangers asking personal questions; especially given their intentions to illegally search the premises of a patron.

Worse still, those they manage to nab are taken to be lectured at a cemetery, then made to call their parents to pick them up from a mosque in the morning, presumably to give the impression that religious authorities may be involved.

Despite the fact that the Kedah religious authorities and police have stated that these vigilante activities are illegal, the group claims to have conducted these activities for the past 2 years and to date have caught hundreds of couples. As previously mentioned, they file a police report before each raid. Given this; the fact that the police has yet to put a stop to this mob rule shows pure neglect and complicity. 

In this country we have an unfortunate culture whereby infractions are done seemingly in plain sight of the authorities, but indifference is shown until the development of media controversy. This culture of turning a blind eye until people start asking questions has to change.

The ongoing presence of vigilantes threatens the maintenance of the rule of law and may lead to both the escalation and proliferation of such conduct throughout the country as has been seen at an increasing rate in India for instance where people accused of cow slaughter have been assaulted and lynched. Similarly in the Philippines where vigilantes have killed people accused of being involved in drugs. The risk of this precedent is why prompt action is crucial.

Law enforcement authorities must take appropriate action immediately. The government must take a stand against these activities, most of which had gone on unchecked under the previous administration.

Released by:
Latheefa Koya
Executive Director
Lawyers for Liberty