(Lunch Talk) Intimacy Under Surveillance: Moral Policing & The State In Contemporary Malaysia


Wednesday, March 4, 2020, 12:00pm to 1:00pm


Austin Hall, Room 102

Speaker:Nurul Huda Mohd Razif, Evans Fellow, University of Cambridge; Visiting Fellow, Program on Law and Society in the Muslim World, Harvard Law School

In Muslim-majority Malaysia today, marriage is recognized as the only acceptable means of securing access to lawful sexual intimacy. This is reinforced by Islamic, Malay cultural (adat), as well as legal restrictions on pre-/extra-marital sexual intimacy, which is criminalized under the Malaysian Syariah law’s Criminal Offences Act. This talk discusses the role of the state-led Vice Prevention Unit (Unit Pencegah Maksiat) in “enjoining the good, and forbidding the evil” (amar ma’aruf, nahi mungkar) in Malaysian society, focusing in particular on the surveillance of sexual offences and crimes of passion such as khalwat (illicit proximity). Dr. Mohd Razif suggests that state-led moral policing in Malaysia today not only reproduces Malay understandings of marriage and intimacy, but also demonstrates the ways in which the bureaucratization of Islam opens up avenues for state intervention in Muslims’ intimate lives.