Fifty-two unmarried Muslim couples face charges of sexual misconduct and possible jail sentenes after being caught alone in hotel rooms by Malaysia's Islamic morality police on New Year's Day.
In an effort to crackdown on immoral behavior, scores of officers targeted low budget hotels in central Selangor state before dawn on Januray 1, knocking on doors and arresting any unmarried Muslim couples who were sharing rooms, said Hidayat Abdul Rani, a spokesman for the Selangor Islamic Department.
Most of the detained were students and young factor workers. They are expected to be charged with "khalwat," or "close proximity," which is described as couples who are not married to each other being alone in a private place, according to Malaysia's Islamic Shariah law.
"We choose to have this large-scale operation on New Year's Day because many people are known to commit this offense while celebrating such a major holiday," Hidyat said.
The law only applies to Malaysia's Muslims, who make-up nearly two-thirds of the population. It excludes any Christian, Buddhist, and Hindu minorities.
Breaking the Shariah law can carry a maximum penalty of two years in a prison and a fine.