Malaysian state drops ban on bars during Ramadan


A Malaysian state controlled by an Islamic opposition party has dropped a plan to force bars, discos and karaoke clubs to close during the Muslim fasting month, an official said Sunday.

Northern Kedah state, which includes the popular resort island of Langkawi, decided in May to ban all entertainment during Ramadan next month, said an official from the Pan-Malaysian Islamic Party (PAS), which runs the state.

However the plan drew criticism from entertainment outlet operators, as well as the party’s opposition allies, who feared a blanket ban would alienate their non-Muslim voters.

The Kedah official said the controversy had been resolved after the state’s chief minister met entertainment representatives Saturday and agreed to allow them to operate as long as they make sure no Muslims enter their premises.

“For Muslims, we have to make special treatment because nowadays too many youngsters are involved in hedonism... The state doesn’t want that,” he told AFP. “Entertainment in Ramadan is only for non-Muslims.”

The official said Islamic officials would enforce the rule across the state, monitoring its more than 300 bars, discos, karaoke lounges and other clubs.

PAS draws its main support from Muslim Malays, who account for 60 percent of the country’s 28 million people, but it is allied with the secular ethnic Chinese-based Democratic Action Party (DAP) and Anwar Ibrahim’s People’s Justice Party.

Spats between PAS and DAP over pig rearing and alcohol bans -- sensitive issues in Islam -- have surfaced in the past, threatening to derail the partnership and its chances to unseat the Barisan Nasional, which has ruled the country for more than 50 years.