JAMAL YUNOS, leader of Malaysia’s right-wing “Red Shirts” movement, was arrested early Friday morning along with seven others for a controversial demonstration that saw them smash crates of beer with a sledgehammer in front of government buildings – leaving the mess for others to clean up.
According to the New Straits Times, Jamal’s stunt was in protest of a series of beer festivals planned to take place in Selangor, an opposition-held state run by the Pakatan Harapan.
Jamal and the others were arrested at 1.45am on Friday, according to a statement from Selangor Criminal Investigations Department chief Assistant Commissioner Fadzil Ahmat. The police received a complaint from a security guard at the Selangor state secretariat building (SUK) where the demonstration took place, leading them to investigated Jamal for participating in illegal assembly and creating a public nuisance.
Last month, a beer festival in Kuala Lumpur scheduled for Oct 6 and Oct 7 was blocked by authorities. The Malaysian police cited security concerns as the reason for cancelling the Better Beer Festival, which has been held annually for the last five years.
However, days prior to the cancellation the Malaysian Islamic Party (PAS) had protested the festival, arguing that the consumption of alcohol is haram or forbidden in Islam and not part of “Eastern culture.”
Jamal and a group of 25 supporters gathered outside the SUK on Thursday morning after being refused entry by a security guard. With them, they had 10 boxes filled with beer bottles that Jamal said he wanted to deliver to Selangor’s Chief Minister Azmin Ali for his apparent support of “alcohol-related festivals.”
“Why am I not allowed to go in? I am not here to create a ruckus,” said Jamal, as reported by the New Straits Times. “I am here to send these bottles of beverages to Azmin’s office.”
“I want to tell him not to encourage immoral and non-beneficial activities.”
He reportedly added: “If they want to get drunk, do it at the SUK. Do not get drunk outside of the SUK. So, if Azmin wants to drink, get drunk, or wants to die, (he can) do it in his office.”
Jamal then proceeded to break the 100 beer bottles at the main entrance of the building. He subsequently left the scene without a word, leaving the building’s entrance littered with broken glass and spilled beer.
The planned beer festival prompted other protests from hardline Muslims who disagree with such events being held so openly in the Muslim-majority nation.
In September, some 25 non-governmental organisations came together to protest against festivals that celebrate alcohol and the lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) community in Malaysia.
The group’s spokesman Nazilah Idris urged the government not to approve permits or requests to organise any festival that “insults the sanctity of Islam.”
“We also call on the government to enact a law that will only permit alcohol consumption in closed areas,” she said. “People should be prohibited from drinking alcohol outside or in public areas including organising festivals.”
The country already bars Muslims from drinking alcohol or engaging in pre-marital sexual relations.