IN part two of stories about those who have encountered the religious police, freelance writer Nabila Nasir, 25, recounts the harassment and extortion she and a now ex-boyfriend experienced at the hands of moral guardians in mid-2007.
The KL-born and raised Nabila says that until today, she has no proof that the man who claimed to be a religious enforcer was really one at all. Eventually, though, Nabila and her then boyfriend were allowed to go free without any charges. In this exclusive phone interview with The Nut Graph on 26 May 2010, she gives a blow by blow account of what happened.
The Nut Graph: Tell us what you were doing before the authorities showed up.
Nabila Nasir: Back then I was dating a Chinese [Malaysian] guy, who was studying in Sydney and came back during his break. He came over to my house one weekday, in Subang, to watch a movie on DVD. After the movie, we went out to have ice cream in Taipan. We were dressed very casually – I didn’t even bring my handphone or IC with me. After ice cream, we drove around and stopped at a park. We kissed a bit, and after five minutes a police car pulled up behind us. This was around 7pm, I guess.
In the car were three men — two in police uniform and one plainclothes. All three were Malay [Malaysian]. The plainclothes man said he was from the jabatan agama. When we got out of the car and I asked for his ID, all three said, “You are in the wrong now, so it’s not your place to ask for his ID.”
What did you say to that?
I said, “I know my rights.” When I said that, they asked my ex-boyfriend to order me to go back into our car. I didn’t want to, but I eventually did. They ended up taking my ex-boyfriend’s IC. I could overhear them telling him, “This is khalwat. Your girlfriend could be charged, and you would also have to go to court and angkat sumpah. Do you want to go to court?” Then they asked him for RM300.
I shouted from inside the car, “No bloody way!” I told my ex-boyfriend, “If anyone is going to get charged for khalwat, it’s going to be me and not you, so don’t listen to them!”
I couldn’t call any of my lawyer friends because I didn’t bring my phone with me. So I demanded to use my ex-boyfriend’s phone to call my friends and tell them what was happening. But then I realised I had not memorised any of their numbers. I pretended to dial the phone anyway. I could sense the officers getting scared when they saw me doing this and they continued telling him, “You don’t want to go to court and face the hassle.”
I was really losing my temper, but my ex-boyfriend kept telling me not to lose it, because he didn’t want to get into more trouble. The three men then refused to give him back his IC and asked us to go to the police station. I was like, “For what?” But I went eventually with my ex-boyfriend.
Why did your ex-boyfriend follow them, and why did you choose to follow them as well?
The thing is, they acted rough with my ex-boyfriend every time I started kicking up a fuss. I really didn’t want to go along, but I didn’t have my wallet on me, or my handphone, or my IC.
Which police station did they bring you to? Did they tell you if you were under arrest?
It was the USJ8 police station, and no, they didn’t tell us we were under arrest. At the police station, they then asked us for RM500 so that we could settle the issue right there and walk away. I said, “We are not paying you RM500.” But then my ex-boyfriend agreed to pay. But we didn’t have any money on us at that time. That’s when they asked me for my home address, and I said, “No bloody way.” My ex-boyfriend then decided to call his friend to borrow the money. I said, “No bloody way! That’s not the point!”
But then the officers all started threatening him again, telling him he couldn’t go back to Sydney, that they could do things to withhold his visa to re-enter Australia. In the end, my ex-boyfriend caved in and called his friend.
Did his friend come?
Yes, it took about 20 minutes for his friend to come to the station. While waiting for his friend, the officers started harassing my ex-boyfriend. They said things like, “Are you serious about going out with her?”, “Getting married soon?”, “You’re not scared of getting circumcised?”, and “Don’t you want to convert to Islam?”
Then my ex-boyfriend had to go to the bathroom and they started harassing me instead. They said, “Oh, your boyfriend is lucky to have a girlfriend with big breasts.” And then they said, “There’s no more shame in this world when Malay [Malaysian] girls can stoop to dating Chinese [Malaysian] men.” And then they asked me, “Is Chinese penis really that good?”
How did you respond to this?
I glared at the religious enforcer and said, “Yes, it’s delicious and I love it!”
And what did he say to that?
He was shocked into silence.
Then my ex-boyfriend returned from the bathroom and everyone was quiet for a while. He signalled at me not to make a scene. Then his friend arrived with the money, and he paid them off. They didn’t give us a receipt or anything, and told us we were free to go. As we were leaving, the religious enforcer said, “Don’t forget to invite us to your wedding.” I said, “Don’t forget to bring a RM500 ang pow.”
Has this experience affected you in any way?
It does make me a bit wary about where and who I hang out with now. I mean, I live in a condo in Bangsar now, and I’m always having dinner parties and some of my guests include men. But if any enforcers tried to intrude, I’d probably still try to fight them off.
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