Authorities in a northern Malaysian city are calling on Muslim women not to wear bright lipstick and noisy high-heel shoes if they want to follow the "Islamic way," an official said Tuesday.
The municipal council in Kota Baru, run by a conservative Islamic party, is distributing pamphlets that recommend women refrain from wearing heavy makeup, including bright lipstick, and loud high-heel shoes to work, council spokesman Azman Mohamad Daham said.
"We just distribute pamphlets. Our minimum guideline is they must wear headscarves," he said. "The rest is up to them. If they want to follow the 100 percent Islamic way, it's up to them."
He said the suggestions aim to prevent rape and protect women's dignity and morals. The campaign started in 2006, but new pamphlets are circulated each year, he said.
Kota Baru is the capital of Kelantan state, which is ruled by the conservative opposition Pan-Malaysian Islamic Party.
National news agency Bernama earlier reported the city had issued a directive forbidding women from wearing makeup and noisy high heels, but Azman said the report was incorrect. He said the only legal directive is one that was issued a decade ago, ordering Muslim women to wear headscarves.
Violators can be fined up to $150, Azman said, adding that an average of 20 women were fined each month for breaking the rule.
Malaysia, where about two-thirds of the population is Malay Muslim, prides itself on being a moderate country. Other ethnic groups — Chinese and Indians who follow other religions — do not face restrictions on their clothing and are free to practice their faiths.
However, debates about Muslim dress codes and behavior erupt occasionally.
The Pan-Malaysian Islamic Party, which secured an unprecedented number of parliamentary seats and state governments together with two other opposition parties in March elections, has only recently backed away from openly advocating an Islamic state.