KUALA LUMPUR - Malaysia's Kelantan state has backed down on a threat to fine non-Muslim women for wearing skimpy outfits, but warned Thursday it could crack down if they continued to dress "indecently" by Islamic standards.
The fundamentalist Islamic party that governs the state triggered a furore with plans for 500-ringgit (140-dollar) fines for women working in shops and restaurants who wear revealing clothes such as mini-skirts and see-through blouses.
"We have never targeted the non-Muslims, but we have set our standards for dressing, which apply to all women in the state," said Kelantan's chief of local government Abdul Aziz.
"If they (non-Muslim women) continue to oppose the rules then we will impose fines on them as well, but not right now," he said.
"We just do not want bad things to happen to them. By exposing their flesh and figure in public, they are just inviting trouble."
The clothing ban has been widely criticised by the national government, which said it was insulting to women and could damage race relations in Malaysia, which has large ethnic Chinese and Indian communities.
Kelantan is the only state to be ruled by the Islamic opposition, PAS, while all other states and the national government are governed by the National Front, a multi-ethnic coalition.
Abdul Aziz said the rules on decent attire applied to all Muslim businesses.
"For the non-Muslim our approach is to be more tolerant because our aim is to achieve a peaceful state where everyone lives in harmony among the different religions and races," he said.
"We will continue to encourage them to comply with the decent dress code according to Muslim standards which means you cannot expose your flesh or wear anything sexy. That is our approach."
"We want to be better prepared to face the increasing social ills in our state and to curb Western influence from seeping in."
Recently PAS has undergone leadership changes and other reforms designed to tone down its hardline reputation and woo young voters.
It recently lifted a 15-year ban on public concerts, and is considering allowing cinemas to operate. - AFP/ir