Kuala Lumpur: All Muslim women employees in supermarkets, food outlets and other business centres in a Malaysian state have been ordered to wear headscarves or face a fine, triggering yet another controversy in this multi- ethnic Muslim majority country.
Authorities in Muslim majority Kelantan state have initiated a campaign 'Operasi Gempur Aurat' (Operation Aurat Attack), imposing a maximum fine of RM 500 (Rs 10,000) on Muslim women traders and workers who do not cover their hair and wear tight outfits.
The ruling applies to Muslim women working in wet markets, supermarkets, hypermarkets, food outlets and all other commercial centres that require operating licences from the local authorities.
Non-Muslim business operators are also at risk being fined if their Muslim employees do not abide by the dress code as certain employers require their workers to wear tight-fitting uniforms and short-sleeve shirts, The Star Online reported.
Kota Baru Municipal Council's Youth, Women and Islamic Development Committee chairman Nor Azariza Mohd Alawi said the crackdown was in response to public complaints.
"The dress code is one of the conditions for business permits issued by local councils," he said.
Nor Azariza said the ruling will be imposed only on those workers "interacting" with members of the public.
So far 34 offenders have been fined.
The council's Islamic Development director Ropein Hassan said that a plea of ignorance would not be accepted as the dress code was clearly stipulated in the business permit.
According to the 2010 Population and Housing census of Malaysia, the bulk of the 1.4 million Kelantanese are Muslims (96.8 per cent), followed by Buddhists (2.5 per cent), Christians (0.2 per cent), Hindus (0.2 per cent), and others (0.3 per cent).
In November 2012, the Kelantan local authorities raised eyebrows when they enforced a ruling barring hairdressers from servicing clients of a different gender.