It has been more than a week since B1A4’s special fanmeeting was held in Kuala Lumpur but people are still talking about it – for the wrong reasons. It’s ridiculous, really, but at the same time, it also raised our concerns about why we allow such a small event to affect Malaysia as a whole. Sure, one’s opinion doesn’t represent the point of view of the whole country but when something goes wrong, the blame game begins.
If you were still wondering what we are talking about, it’s about the so-called “controversial” video where B1A4 was accused of “molesting” tudung-clad girls during the special fan meeting on 10th Jan. This is probably the first time B1A4 was said to be behaving “badly” in Malaysia even though the band was previously here to perform at 2011’s MOA Live in Malaysia, 2012’s “one FM THE ONE Concert”, and 2013’s “Samsung GALAXY The 27th Golden Disk Awards in Kuala Lumpur.”
The video went viral almost immediately after Sukan Star TV sensationalised it by titling their video with inclusion of the word, “dicabul” (translation: molested). Keyboard warriors started throwing shades at everything from the idols’ behaviours to the tudung-clad girls in the video to the organisers’ responsibilities. It seems like there’s no end to this public debate, especially when the Malaysian Islamic Development Department (JAKIM) issued a warrant of arrest on the girls.
If you think about it, why spend all the resources to arrest the girls for such thing? Why would PAS thinks that this is a “hidden agenda” to tarnish Islam and the organisers would pay girls to wear tudung? In our honest opinions, this is clearly a far-fetched statement and it’s a serious accusation.
In order to understand the whole situation, here are some basic understandings of the religion’s rule of touching and kissing:
Why is it such a big deal in Malaysia?
Islam is the official religion of Malaysia and about 60% of Malaysians are Muslims. As we live in a country of diverse races, cultures, and religions, we are responsible for strengthening the racial harmony and religious tolerance at every level. It is safe to say that at some level, we managed to strengthen racial harmony in our country through our education and festive celebrations. Even though our country has adopted Islam and its state religion, we’ve learned to respect the Islamic culture and the same respect must given back to us as well.
The video became such a big deal in Malaysia because in general, any kind of touching with a part of the body, to an object or person with the intention of lust is harm.
What’s the rule of touching?
To preserve the customs Any unmarried Muslim who has reached puberty is a “Mahram” and any kind of touching with “Mahram” is not encouraged with the exception of one’s spouse.
According to Ihityat Wajib, it is necessary for a Mahram to explain to the non-Mahram that refusing the hand-shaking not due to the bad manners but it’s because of the beliefs in Islam and holding on to its commandments. Looking at the face or hands of a Muslim woman in hijab is allowed but touching them is not allowed. Bodily contact but if it happens accidentally, then it is not a problem.
There are a lot of circumstances where Muslim women should be more cautious about, and all of these circumstance can be found in Al-Islam‘s general rule of touching.
What about the rule of kissing?
Surprisingly, it is fine to kiss a Mahram with the condition that it is not with the intention of lust. Kissing the son of one’s sister, grandchild, or any child, and as a whole, kissing any Mahram with a lustful intent is considered haram, with the exception of one’s spouse. Kissing any part of the body of a Mahram, which one is permitted to look at is not a problem, whether it be on the forehead, the shoulders, the hands, etc. It is haram to kiss anything with the intention of lust, even if it is a stone, wood, metal, a statue, etc.
Why B1A4 was accused of “molesting” the tudung-clad girls during the special fan meeting?
Korean idol groups are not only known for their looks and their talent, they are also known for actively interacting with the audiences through fan service so that they can return the love and support given by the fans. Q&A sessions or game sessions are some of the most common types of fan activities for a K-Pop concert or fanmeeting because it allows fans to get up close and personal with their idols.
The event people organised a game session so that fans can get a chance to interact with their idols by leaving questions on a memo board. The B1A4 members themselves picked a question at random each and the fans who wrote the questions were to go on stage to interact with their idols. The game session required the idols and the fans to reenact a romantic scene from popular Korean dramas.
Media outlet Sukan Star TV uploaded 3-minute video of the game session, suggesting that Malay girls were “molested” on stage by the idols and the video quickly became viral. The video was viewed more than a million times and counting.
Knowing this is such a sensitive issue, why didn’t the organiser stop the tudung-clad girls from having skinship with B1A4?
As explained in TGM Events’ official statement, before the event in question took place, the emcee instructed the fans to not touch or get too close to the members of the group. The members of the K-Pop idol group have also asked and clarified with the selected fans if they were uncomfortable with the activity but the fans gave them consent on stage.
As TGM Events is a company run primarily by women, they stated that they do not and never will condone molestation or sexual harassment as alleged by the media outlet. They also clarified that they do not discriminate against any fan based on their race and religion thus their programmes are tailored to the preferences of their general target audience.
What happened right after the video went viral?
The event organiser, TGM events released an official statement to explain the incident and stated that female fans had gone on stage willingly. The event company and B1A4’s management firm WM Entertainment have also denied the “molest” claims, saying that they were mindful of local Muslim sensitivities and said consent of the 3 had been obtained.
Paimuzi Yahya, the director of Federal Territory Islamic Religious Department (JAWI), has asked the girls in the video to come forward and assist them in their investigation under Section 29 of the Syariah Criminal Offences ( Federal Territories ) Act 1977 (Act 599 Indecent Acts in Public Places).
He also stated that “the actions of the women and band members went overboard” because those actions were against Islamic teachings and offended the Muslim community. He explained that under Section 29 of the Syariah Criminal Offences Act (FT) 1977, a criminal offense for “any person who contrary to Islamic Law, acts or behaves in an indecent manner in any public place” will be punished with fines of not more than RM1,000 or 6 months jail or both.
What did the ministers/political leaders say about this?
Despite the obvious willingness of the tudung-clad B1A4 fans (as documented), both the group and the K-Pop genre came under fire since the controversial video emerged. Netizens are far from pleased. In fact, they’re raging mad, throwing in comments reflecting anger and shame.
There are different opinions about the controversial video, with Khairy Jamaluddin, Federal Minister for Youth and Sports being the first Minister to respond to the video:
Banyak dikatakan ttg Kpop. Harap gadis2 Msia kembali kpd lelaki tall, dark & hensem. Bukan pale, skinny & pretty. Itu bukan lelaki sejati.
— Khairy Jamaluddin ??? (@Khairykj) January 11, 2015
A lot is being said about K-Pop. I hope Malaysian girls will return to men who are tall, dark, & handsome. Not pale, skinny, & pretty. Those aren’t real men.
The Federal Territory mufti Dr Zulkfli Mohamad Al-Bakri further added fuel to fire as he was quoted saying that the K-pop culture is ruining the image of Islam as Muslim youths lose control of themselves for the K-Pop idols. Zulkifli also said Muslim youths should reflect on their behaviour, instead of defending what they perceived as freedom.
What has happened, happened. It is wrong. There need to be a self-reflection done and a promise that they will not repeat the same mistakes again.
This becomes a problem when we follow trends to this point (obsession) until we ourselves are losing our grip on the Islamic foundation as a result of this ‘invasion’ by both cultures.
Let it be known that these are not part of Islam. Even now, we see the good conducts of the Malay culture are being eroded from time to time because of this.
We should learn a great lesson from all that has happened. And we don’t want this to happen again, from bad to worse.
He also suggested that censorship on the local entertainment programmes should start as start as early as during the pre-production stage, not during the post-production stage.
Ahmad Mouhyiddin Hassim, the operational director of PAS’ Ulama Wing’s research establishment, published an opinion piece on Harakah to criticise those who are denouncing the religious authorities for going after the girls and threatening action against the concert organisers. He announced that the wing supports the punishment of the Muslim girls in the video and has called for action against the organisers of the concert.
According to our source, he also disagreed with the calls for counselling because he says that the Muslim society is generally aware that the action is “as much an offence as theft, fornication and rape” thus punishment is more appropriate. He even stated that the authorities are allowed to use the power to punish in such cases under the Islamic Sharia Law.
However, Datuk Seri Ahmad Shabery Cheek, The Communications and Multimedia Minister responded by saying that incidents involving audiences often happen out of spontaneity and difficult to manage. He told reporters at a press conference that a punishment was not necessary for every unfavourable incident and the girls should be given counselling and advice instead.
Sometimes things that we dislike happen and these things should be dealt with by giving advice, not only to the performer but also to those in attendance. That is the best option.
I believe in Islam, being a preacher is better than being ‘qadi’ (a judge) or a punisher in everything.
Datuk Seri Abdul Rahman Dahlan, Minister Of Urban Wellbeing, Housing and Local Government shared the same sentiment as Ahmad Shabery Cheek as he took to Twitter to say that the arrest was unnecessary.
— Abdul Rahman Dahlan (@DARDOfficial) January 15, 2015
— Abdul Rahman Dahlan (@DARDOfficial) January 15, 2015
Regarding this situation, Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim, the Opposition leader updated his official blog with a post, accusing the Federal Territories Islamic Department (JAWI) of practicing double standards in this controversy.
Anwar Ibrahim said:
I urge that JAWI and other religious authorities not enforce any form of action. Do not take action against young people hugging, but not take action against figures and artists who are involved in the same social problem.
Threats will only bring about anxiety and confusion for them (youths)..advise them, talk to them.
Prominent Malaysian lawyer turned politician, Dato’ Mohd Zaid Ibrahim declared that the Muslim BANAs are innocent in this situation, stating that Muslims should not be rude or “sombong” (arrogant) because it is rude to refuse hugs or handshakes that are without intention of lust.
His statement was posted on Twitter:
Ezra 3 girls innocent. If people hug u or offers a handshake its rude to refuse. Muslims must never be rude or sombong #fb
— Zaid Ibrahim (@zaidibrahim) January 15, 2015
Malay Mail Online confirmed that Zaid was referring to the controversy, saying that it’s a “small matter” that “should never have been an issue in the first place”.
Young people who attend concerts, if the stars hug them, what can they do? It’s just a harmless sign of affection, there’s nothing wrong with that. We shouldn’t waste our time. Government departments should not waste time on this.
He also urged the government to stop wasting resources on this issue, pointing that incidents of hugging were seen in other concerts held locally as well, including a recent one by Bollywood star Shah Rukh Khan.
Other events where tudung-clad girls were seen having skinship with their idols
We do not condone online harassment and thus, we won’t be releasing any information on the fans seen in these pictures. Their faces have been blurred out in the protection of their physical and psychological wellbeing:
What NGO(s) are saying:
Islamic non-governmental organisation, Sisters in Islam (SIS) has criticised JAWI over their decision to investigate the 3 tudung-clad fans in the controversial video. SIS’ programme director Suri Kempe released a statement on their website, stating that JAWI’s investigation under the Islamic Syaria Law was “unduly broad” and “opens itself up to abuse.”
“It can be widely interpreted to apply to any behaviour that the religious authorities deem indecent, apparently even retrospectively,” SIS added.
Eric Paulsen arrest and probing of K-Pop concert, we reiterate – misplaced priorities. Kan best kalau probe cases of nafkah tertunggak?
— Sisters in Islam (@SistersinIslam) January 13, 2015
Suri also pointed out that religious authorities have failed to focus a lot more horrible things around the world for only investigating the cases based on viral videos.
If Jawi holds that re-enacting a scene from a Korean drama with a band member as indecent, what about actors who play roles that require physical contact, or Muslim couples who hold hands in public, or those riding motorcycles?
Where does it stop? Will Jawi launch investigations into each of these cases, too, or pick and choose the cases to investigate based on viral videos?
The organisation then posted another update on Twitter, asking them to worry about the Malaysian Muslims who are travelling to Syria to fight against President Bashar al-Assad of Syria:
— Sisters in Islam (@SistersinIslam) January 15, 2015
She also said that an unconstitutional trespass on Federal powers could be amounted if the department chose to pursue the case, leading to double jeopardy:
The Federal Constitution’s Ninth Schedule, List II, item 1, provides that state assemblies have jurisdiction over the ‘…creation and punishment of offences by persons professing the religion of Islam … except with regard to matters included in the federal list’.
As such, Section 294A of the Penal Code could conceivably cover the offence of indecency, as set out in the Syariah Criminal Offences laws.
What happens now?
Well, nothing is going to happen to B1A4 and its talent agency WM Entertainment because there’s nothing the religious authorities can do about them. However, the tudung-clad girls involved in the video are threatened with an arrest warrant if they do not come forward to assist in the investigations. TGM Events has already been contacted or summoned to meet officials from the Communications and Multimedia Ministry.
More recently, JAWI told Malay Mail Online that they are unsure how to proceed with the case now since the girls have yet to present themselves. Although they said they would seek their arrests for public indecency, JAWI director Paimuzi Yahya confirmed the religious authority’s one-week deadline has since lapsed due to the girls’ absence.
There is nothing we (JAWI) can do. Nothing.
If they turn up, we can give them advice. But if they don’t, and for now, they have not turned up, we cannot do anything.
The case will be investigated and brought to the Shariah Court to have the punishments decided but if the girls are underage, then we will arrange for them to undergo rehabilitation instead, here at JAWI.
The JAWI official also admitted JAWI has no legal authority to compel the girls, saying that “perhaps they (the girls) have been advised by other people”. The department’s official also said that they may be sent for rehabilitation instead if they are underage.
Personally, we think this case has gone way beyond our control because we don’t know much about the religion. What we do know is that this case is definitely going to cause an inconvenience for the future events that will be held locally. We understand that the religious authorities are trying to protect their religion but punishments for such harmless cases are really unnecessary. We sincerely hope that the religious authorities will focus on the criminal offences that could potentially break the racial harmony in our country.
What do you think of the case? If something like this happens again in the future, do you think JAWI will launch another investigation? Share your thoughts in the comments box below.