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Malaysia Cracks Down on Pornography - 2003-06-04

In their latest bid to crack down on pornography, Malaysian authorities say they will search private homes for forbidden sex videos.

Mamat Ibrahim, the Home Ministry spokesman, said pornography is illegal and the government will not accept the excuse that sex videos may be viewed privately at home.

So Malaysian authorities reacting to tips from citizens will now conduct searches of any home suspected of having pornographic movies.

Possessing pornographic videos in the majority-Muslim nation carries a maximum sentence of five years in jail and some $1,300 in fines.

The government recently began a campaign to wipe out the porn industry in Malaysia targeting makers and distributors who sell the videos on the black market for as little as one dollar.

Chandra Muzaffar, from the Kuala Lumpur-based rights group the International Movement for Justice and Peace, downplays the significance of the government move to conduct home searches. "It is the peddlers and those who are engaged in pornographic trade who are being targeted. One doesn't get the impression that homes will be searched and individuals and families would be brought to the dock," he said.

Mr. Chandra said the government is only acting in response to complaints from parents and educators who say the porn industry is targeting school age children. "There are rackets, which peddle pornographic material, that is quite widespread in some parts of the country. I suspect this is what has prompted the authorities to act. Most of us would agree that the pornographic trade worldwide, it's not just Malaysia, is a major challenge," he said.

Meanwhile Tuesday, in Malaysia's third largest city of Ipoh, some 30 non-Muslim couples were fined about eight dollars for holding hands. The charges were the result of the city's drive to keep "morally clean."

The country's official religion is Islam, but the constitution allows for religious freedom for non-Muslims, who make up just less than half the population.

The hand holding incident angered the nation's English language daily, the Star, which said in an editorial that "religious zealots have no place in Malaysia."