Malaysia tries to play up its Islamic credentials with the Selangor Islamic Religious Department (JAIS) introducing a mobile app known as Hotline JAIS. The Hotline JAIS app is free to download on the Google Play Store, where members of the public will then be able to make reports of crimes which are not Shariah compliant.
Being the first country in the world to launch a Shariah Index last year, this is another step in curtailing the freedom of those living in this multi-racial country. The Hotline JAIS app is meant to make the Selangor Islamic Religious Department more “approachable”. With the public now being able to play the role of religious police, the app is supposed to make it more difficult for those who intend to break Shariah laws in the country.
According to JAIS director Haris Kasim, “I believe many will find this app easy to use. Users can report any form of Shariah-related crimes, such as ‘khalwat’ (close proximity with someone of the opposite sex who is not a family member), devious teachings, religious talks without permits and other matters related to Islam.”
It will not be that straightforward however, as complainants do need to fill up a form beforehand that includes details such as your full name, Identity Card number, and mobile phone number. With smartphones having better and better camera sensors embedded these days, the report can be substantiated with photographs as well for additional proof.
The app itself is not just an avenue to file a report with JAIS on Shariah-related crimes, it will also allow one to obtain further information on everything that is Shariah-related as well as Islam. It would not be surprising to see these Shariah laws and rules being listed down that makes people get all legalistic in their zeal to pick out ‘sinners’ from the crowd. A list of organizations with their respective contact details are also provided in the app just in case you have a question that JAIS is unable to act on or answer.
Last updated in September 20th, the Hotline JAIS app has seen just 50 to 100 installs as at press time. Reviews of the app have been generally unfavorable, with Muslims themselves incredulous at the waste of money for such an app when far more pressing and important issues that plague the country are at hand: corruption, kleptocracy and aggresive, systematic Islamization of the country continues to run rampant. Moral and religious policing in such a manner will never yield the desired result, but rather, it is a form of undue oppression on the masses as history has proved.
There are many questions which need to be answered concerning this app, including potential violations of privacy and the ilk. What if it sets off a new breed of voyeurs who have nothing better to do but to look out for alleged contravention of Shariah laws? Imagine the amount of embarrassment as well as undue stress caused to a married couple just because someone reported them to be in close proximity, and JAIS officials then take the relevant action by barging in unannounced.
JAIS has had its fair share of controversy in the past when enforcing its jurisdiction and power over the lives of Muslims and non-Muslims in Malaysia. Some of their past indiscretions include raiding a church unannounced after complaints of the proselytization of Muslims were filed without the proper papers or having the authority to do so, seizing the Malay language Bible (Alkitab) from the Bible Society of Malaysia without a permit, and raiding a closed-door event that had transgenders in attendance.
Act 355, which is the Syariah Courts (Criminal Jurisdiction) Act, was non-existent when Malaya gained its independence from the British in 1957, and was not there when Malaysia was founded in 1963 as Sabah and Sarawak came into the fold. In 1965, Act 355 was tabled and approved, being restricted to Peninsular Malaysia only. Close to two decades later in 1984, Act 355 saw the list and severity of punishments increased. Fast forward by another five years, and 1989 saw the extent of Act 355 expanded to include Sabah and Sarawak. As you can see, there is a subtly slow but systematic move towards increasing the influence of Shariah law and powers in Malaysia, and eventually it would not be surprising if Malaysia ends up ditching its civil court for a Shariah court. Even at this point in Malaysia’s history, there are attempts by politicians to expand the scope and reach of Act 355.
The Hotline JAIS app is but a small step towards full Shariah compliance in Malaysia, a country with 65% of the population being Muslims.