Updated Saturday, October 25, 2008 11:20 am TWN, By Julia Zappei, AP

Islamic clerics in Malaysia issue rule to ban tomboys

KUALA LUMPUR, Malaysia -- Malaysia's main body of Islamic clerics has issued an 
edict banning tomboys in the Muslim majority country, ruling that girls who act 
like boys violate the tenets of Islam, an official said Friday. 
The National Fatwa Council forbade the practice of girls behaving or dressing 
like boys during a meeting Thursday in northern Malaysia, said Harussani Idris 
Zakaria, the mufti of northern Perak state, who attended the gathering. 

Harussani said an increasing number of Malaysian girls behave like tomboys, and 
that some of them engage in homosexuality. Homosexuality is not explicitly 
banned in Malaysia, but it is effectively illegal under a law that prohibits 
sex acts "against the order of nature." 

Harussani said the council's ruling was not legally binding because it has not 
been passed into law, but that tomboys should be banned because their actions 
are immoral. 

"It doesn't matter if it's a law or not. When it's wrong, it's wrong. It is a 
sin," Harussani told The Associated Press. "Tomboy (behavior) is forbidden in 

Under the edict, girls are forbidden to sport short hair and dress, walk and 
act like boys, Harussani said. Boys should also not act like girls, he said. 

"They must respect God. God created them as boys, they must behave like boys. 
God created them as girls, they must act like girls," he said. 

Council chairman Abdul Shukor Husin said the ruling was prompted by recent 
cases of young women behaving like men and indulging in homosexuality, 
according to the national news agency Bernama. He did not elaborate. 

Malaysian media have reported on recent incidents of school bullying among 
girls, which have been caught on film and circulated on the Internet. In one 
film, some girls are seen beating up another girl in a bathroom. 

A well-known Malaysian Muslim actress caused an uproar last year when she 
shaved her head bald for a film. Harussani and other muftis urged Muslims not 
to watch the movie, arguing that the actress had violated Islam by making 
herself look like a man. 

"Muallaf," or "the convert," is scheduled for release in Singapore next month, 
but no date has been set for its release in Malaysia. 

Muslims make up some 60 percent of Malaysia's 27 million people, and are 
subject to Islamic laws and the council's edicts, even if the rulings have not 
been enshrined in national or Shariah law. 

It was not immediately clear what kind of punishment awaited those who violate 
the tomboy edict, or "fatwa." Malays generally follow the council's "fatwas" 
out of deference, but violators rarely get into trouble unless the edict is 
incorporated into national or Shariah law.

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