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May 27, 2008

A Chinese Woman in PAS Country

Islamicasiasentinel - [...] It's 4 am in Kota Bahru. The streets are empty in the capital of Kelantan, the northern state bordering Thailand on Malaysia’s east coast. Here in the heart of the old town, which is mostly populated by shops owned by ethnic Chinese, also lies the headquarters of the Parti se-Islam Malaysia, or PAS, the fundamentalist party that has ruled the state for 18 years in defiance of all electoral attempts by the ruling national coalition to root it out. Further down the street are the state mosque and the sultan’s palace.

Just around the corner, a young ethnic Malay woman walks down the stairs of a budget hostelry located above the shop. Wearing a pair of tight-fitting capris and a tight short-sleeved tee-shirt, she looks at me and smiles. Moments later, a young man with short, streaked curly hair comes down, tucking in his shirt. He smiles too.

As I walk up, I meet a regular at the motel where I've been staying at for the past week. He is probably in his late teens or early twenties. Scrawny, but handsome with big doleful eyes and smooth olive skin, he waits around the lobby for his girlfriend, who is usually up in a room.

Life in Kota Bahru is strikingly similar to that in Brunei, another strict Islamic state, where entertainment and the public sale and consumption of alcohol are illegal. Beneath a prim and proper exterior are all the carnal undercurrents. As in Brunei, illegal drinking holes exist, but they are strictly for non-Muslims, and tapai -- alcoholic fermented rice — is a popular tipple. Youthful rebellion against medieval Islamic laws simmers, but quietly, and many leave the state, either in search of better employment opportunities or a more liberal lifestyle.... selanjutnya.


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