KUALA LUMPUR, Malaysia –– The fundamentalist Muslim government in a Malaysian state will ban women from wearing bikinis and from sharing swimming pools with men, a news report said Saturday.
Hotels in the eastern state of Terengganu have been directed to build separate swimming pools for men and women, the Star newspaper quoted state tourism minister Wan Hassan Mohamad Ramli as saying.
"We decided, in the interest of Muslims, to separate the two sexes when it comes to swimming pools," the paper quoted Wan Hassan as saying.
The Pan-Malaysian Islamic party, Malaysia's main opposition group, was swept into power in Terengganu in the 1999 elections and pledged to tighten Islamic laws in the oil-rich state. It has since imposed other strict rules, including the separation of men and women lining up at cash registers in supermarkets.
Wan Hassan also said a dress code would be imposed at holiday resorts, barring bikinis and ordering women to dress "in accordance with local cultural norms." He did not elaborate or say when the new dress code would be imposed.
Tourism in Malaysia has started dropping off after one state banned holidaymakers from wearing bikinis.
The Terengganu state government also segregates men from women at swimming pools and in hotels.
Malaysia's tourism minister Abdul Kadir Sheikh Fadzir says he is disappointed over the decision by the Islamic state government.
He revealed many European tourists had cancelled trips to Malaysia because of the announcement.
He told the New Straits Times: "Yesterday, I received a fax from a Malaysian tourism officer overseas who said many tour agents have been asking if it was appropriate to send tourists to Malaysia because of this.
"Whether they want to swim with their husbands or wives or want to wear bikinis or just enjoy under the sun on the beach, they have the right to do so. We cannot force them to follow the way we think."
Since the Muslim opposition party took over in Terengganu, it has banned karaoke outlets, pubs, unisex hair salons and gaming outlets.