PASIR GUDANG – A Muslim couple in their 20s was chased away by religious officers in an anti-vice operation at a park during a Merdeka countdown, only to be caught again two hours later for commiting khalwat (close proximity) in a hotel room.

The amorous couple were detained about 2am today in a budget hotel in Masai.

Johor Islamic Religious Department (JAINJ) personnel initially apprehended the male youth, 20, and his 21-year-old lover when they were among 40 youngsters rounded up in Bukit Layang-Layang, Pasir Gudang, for indecent behaviour in dark areas of the park.

A state-level Merdeka eve countdown was held at the park late last night.

A JAINJ officer who caught the couple the second time told them that he had no choice but to nab them for khalwat.

“Don’t you remember me? I was the one who asked you to leave the park and to go back home and not do anything that is against the religion as you two are still unmarried.

“But now I find both of you inside this room committing khalwat and we have to detain both of you under Syariah law,” said the officer.

JAINJ enforcement deputy director Mohd Hafiz Abdul Rahman said the raiding team detained four persons.

The team had earlier issued syariah court orders to another 14 youths, some as as young as 14, for indecent behaviour at Bukit Layang-Layang.

The four persons from the budget hotel were taken to the Masai police station for their reports to be lodged at about 3am and were later taken to the JAINJ headquarters in Johor Baru to have their statements recorded.

Section 27(1)a and Section 27(1)b of the Johor Syariah Law Criminal Offences Enactment 1997 states that the offence of khalwat carries a fine of RM3,000 or imprisonment of two years or both, upon conviction.

The 14 people suspected of indecent behaviour will also have their cases heard before a Syariah court judge, under Section 29 of the same enactment.

Hafiz said there was a trend during school holidays and public holidays when younger couples would engage in unsavoury activities without the knowledge of their parents.

“School and public holidays are times when these couples think they are free to do what they like without parental supervision. I hope parents will keep tab on their teenagers’ behaviour as commiting khalwat is an offence in Islam,” he said.