Malaysia tells boxers to cover up


Traditional boxers in a Malaysian state ruled by a conservative Islamic party have been ordered to ditch their skimpy shorts and good-luck talismans, in accordance with religious rules.


The Pan-Malaysia Islamic Party, which governs the northern state of Kelantan, said that “Tomoi” boxers — a form of unarmed martial art similar to the popular “Muay Thai” boxing in Thailand — will be told to cover up.

“We want them to follow Islamic rules. We want to promote good values and Islam will be used as the basis for these guidelines,” said Abdul Fattah Mahmood, the state minister in charge of sports.

“Their boxing trunks were too short and they didn’t know that when they were fighting, their underwear could be seen. Many women in the audience felt very embarrassed and complained to us later,” he told AFP.

Women in Kelantan have previously been targeted with various campaigns discouraging them from wearing sexy outfits, lipstick or high heels, but it is the first time that men have been told to cover up.

Under the Kelantan guidelines, boxers will be asked to wear trunks that reach below the knees, and must not carry any talismans, despite the good-luck charms’ popularity.

“We want them to cover their ‘aurat’,” Abdul Fattah said, referring to Islamic rules which in Malaysia require men to cover the area between their navel and knees. Women must cover their entire body except the face and hands.

Abdul Fattah said state authorities have also proposed that boxers not be permitted to display tattoos on their body but there was no plan yet to make that compulsory.

“Tomoi” was banned in the state in 1993, said Abdul Fattah, amid disapproval over an animist war-dance ritual that featured before the fight, and because men and women were allowed to mix freely in the audience.

The ban was lifted in 2006 but men and women were required to sit separately to watch the fights, and the dance ritual was abolished.

Islam is the official religion of Malaysia, where more than 60 percent of its 28 million population are Muslim Malays, living alongside ethnic Chinese and Indian communities.

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