Kuala Lumpur, Sept17: A Malaysian state ruled by a hardline Islamist party has set up a snoop squad to catch Muslims who ignore a religious ban on eating, drinking and smoking during the fasting month of Ramadan.
Ramzan, which began last Thursday in Muslim-majority Malaysia, is the holiest month of the Islamic calendar. Practising Muslims abstain from food, drink and sex during daylight hours in a discipline intended to purify their souls.
Religious officials in the northeastern state of Kelantan, ruled by the opposition Parti Islam se-Malaysia (PAS), have detailed 10 municipal officials in plainclothes to keep watch at food outlets, the New Straits Times newspaper said today.
''This is the first time the council is taking action as we have received numerous complaints about those who eat openly during the fasting period,'' said Azman Mohamad Daham, a municipal spokesman in Kota Baru, the state capital.
People who fall foul of the religious law face a fine of 20 ringgit (6dollars), while the food vendor could be fined up to 500 Malaysian ringgit (144dollars), the paper added. PAS wants to turn multi-religious Malaysia into an Islamic state.
Muslims form about 60 per cent of a population of 26 million, Buddhists about 20 per cent, Christians 10 per cent and Hindus about 6 per cent.