The circular, which has now been removed, highlighted guidelines on attire (read: barring tourists from wearing revealing attire) that was to be be released to all Malaysian travel agents and Malaysian tourism headquarters in neighbouring countries, including Singapore, Indonesia, and Thailand.
The website also stated that the guidelines are targeted at tourists, especially female tourists. Those who fail to do so would be called for counselling and in the case of underaged perpetrators, parents would also be called in to attend counselling sessions.
Now, imagine if that really happened and how damaging it could potentially be to Malaysia’s tourism industry, considering the fact that the state is home to several outlying islands with pristine beaches including Pulau Perhentian, Pulau Kapas and Pulau Redang. On top of that, Terengganu is also popular with tourists for the marine turtles that visit the state to nest.
Malaysian Chinese Tourism Association secretary-general Tai Poh Kim said imposing such rules is unnecessary in the first place as “we don’t have much problems with tourists thus far” and that “Tourists must respect local culture, but to have tourists dress 100% in line with Muslim rules is overdoing it. No one wants to go to a place that’s full of restrictions.”
Fortunately, as quickly as the story went viral, Terengganu Mentri Besar Datuk Ahmad Razif Abd Rahman stepped forward to deny that the state ever issued the dress code, and that such rules to police tourists’ attire were unnecessary as there were already sufficient laws to ensure public modesty.
According to Malay Mail Online, he said, “I’ve already asked the exco chairman to explain the statement … The state government has never planned to issue dressing guidelines for tourists,” Ahmad Razif said as quoted by news portal Sin Chew Daily, referring to State Tourism and Cultural Affairs executive committee (exco) chairman Datuk Mohd Jidin Shafee.
The Star Online also quoted him as saying, “If someone dresses indecently, there are existing laws to deal with it, and the government does not intend to introduce new rules.”
Hence, keep calm and come as you are, everyone! So far, the only dress you need to really worry about is this one.