A woman was subject to repeated breathalyzer tests in a futile attempt to charge her with drinking. Liquor consumption by Muslims was forbidden in Islamic country, Malaysia. The woman was singled out because she had been caught wearing revealing clothes and singing in a nightclub. Her attire: a pair of long, black pants and a white sleeveless top. A case of indecent exposure or overzealous enforcement officers? “Is this sexy? Sometimes I wear this out during the day.”

The woman was ordered to go before the Islamic court to face charges of exposing her body and promoting vice. She was told that any man or woman, who works in a place where alcohol is served and immoral activities are likely to take place, is considered to have deviated from Quranic teachings. She was remanded with four members of her band. “A Muslim woman is not allowed to serve or entertain a man who is not her husband in a place where immoral activities usually take place,” Jamry Sury, chief of the state religious police who raided the club, told the local daily, The Star. This sounds familiar: a woman’s place is in the house, preferable in the kitchen, at the beck and call of the husband. A woman should take care of the family and not subject herself to risks of vice and immoral activities. Siti Noor Idayu Abd Moin raised a cry for she claimed she had not drunk a drop of alcohol in her three years’ stint singing in nightclubs. She was merely earning an honest living as a singer.

The country boasts the tallest building in the world, an F1 circuit, grand shopping malls, and numerous pubs and entertainment centres to feed tourists’ demand for an exciting nightlife. But the population does not seem ready to embrace the progress and development of a modern, global society. Muslim fundamentalism is panic-inducing in a terror-stricken and post-September 11 world. Is Malaysia a modern country which upholds moderate views or is it run by radical Muslim fundamentalists who impose their ways of life on others? Isolated incidents like this appear sporadically to threaten the fragile balance of a multi-racial society like Malaysia and a divided world.