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A ‘Couple’ Of Things You Should Know About This Entire LFS Cinema Issue That’s Taking Over Social Media
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A ‘Couple’ Of Things You Should Know About This Entire LFS Cinema Issue That’s Taking Over Social Media

by The Daily SeniJuly 23, 2015

The Daily Seni‘s Tania Knutt and Deric Ect trawl the internet to understand mahram-gate and come up with something that’s (hopefully) of use to people who want to learn more about the issue.

In recent news, Perak Mufti Tan Sri Harussani Zakaria stated that couple seats in cinemas encourage ‘couples’ to engage in immoral acts. As reported by Astro Awani and The Malay Mail on Tuesday, Harussani claimed that cinema is a vice that is detrimental to the faith of Malaysian Muslims.

This piece of news has come amidst intensifying media coverage on the 1MDB debacle; you may have seen this on your Facebook news feed in between posts of Jho Low and Tony Pua. If you haven’t, here’s a round-up of everything to do with the entire thing.

It all began at Lotus Five Star Cinema (LFS) in Seri Iskandar, Perak. Two years ago.

The implementation isn’t new; it was only picked up by media after a picture was posted in a Facebook fan group called Movie Addict, as reported by Astro Awani two days ago.

In the picture was a sign put up at LFS that simply said the words:

“Harap Maklum. Pasangan yang bukan Mahram tidak dibenarkan untuk Duduk di “Couple Seat”.

What exactly does mahram mean? Let’s ask Wiki!

In Islamic sharia legal terminology, a mahram is an unmarriageable kin with whom sexual intercourse would be considered incestuous, a punishable taboo.

Oh, you mean muhrim. [Ed – Despite often being used interchangeably with mahram in conversation, muhrim actually denotes a person who gets into the state of ihram for the purpose of haji or umrah.]


The sign that started it all. Photo by Harith Baharudin via Facebook.

According to the Malaysian Digest, the Perak Tengah District Council requires that cinema-goers show proof of marriage in order to use the couple seats. This has been enforced since the middle of 2014 — public opinion was taken into account by Seri Iskandar council members as well as the Perak Islamic Department (JAIP).

In any case, here are quotes in relation to the whole thing.

First up, we have words from the mufti himself, as obtained from Astro Awani.

Panggung wayang itu sendiri sudah maksiat, apakah lagi duduk di kerusi bersama itu menggalakkan orang untuk buat maksiat di dalam panggung.

Sepatutnya tidak perlu diberi lesen, mereka bukan hendak tengok wayang tetapi mahu beromen di dalam itu.

Pihak pencegahan maksiat perlu lihat bukan sahaja wayang, di mana-mana pun kalau mereka belum kahwin dan duduk berdua-duaan, tangkap sahajalah.

Harus ganti dengan kemudahan lain, cara lain. Pihak berkuasa juga wajib melihat isu itu secara serius dan jadi penggalak maksiat kepada umat Islam terutamanya.

Kita beria-ria habiskan wang untuk tujuan dakwah namun pihak kita sendiri yang galakkan maksiat.

Sudahlah wayang pun tunjuk cerita beromen, orang yang tengok ini pun hendak beromen di kerusi masing-masing, saya tidak faham kenapa ini semua terjadi.

– Tan Sri Harussani Zakaria, Mufti of Perak

Who is Harussani? Well, he last bagged headlines in June, when he claimed that gymnastics are not for Muslim women.

Harussani is the Mufti who receives the most media coverage. Photo via Youtube.

Next are a selection of soundbites from Parit UMNO Youth Head and Seri Iskandar Council member Khairul Shahril Mohamed, straight out of the Malaysian Digest.

The management of LFS have been entrusted with the responsibility to ensure that cinema-goers adhere to the ruling covering all ticket purchases including online purchases to verify their marital status first.

JAIP has also instructed the cinema management to ensure sufficient lighting fixtures are in place for cinema patrons.

A fine will be imposed on the cinema operators and even the possibility of having its licence revoked if non-married Muslim couples are found patronising the couple seats.

Those found flouting the ruling will also be directed to attend counselling.

– Khairul Shahril Mohamed, Seri Iskandar Council Member

Since the time we started writing this article, The Star has also jumped on board the issue and now we have some words from the chairman of Malaysia’s Non-Islamic Affairs Committee.

So far, we have not received any complaints from the public nor the cinema, and we have also not issued any summonses to the cinema if it had violated the notice.

Respect is key for the religion and culture of others, and I am totally against the idea of revoking the cinema’s licence. The cinema is just following instructions from the local council.

– Mah Hang Soon, Non-Islamic Affairs Committee

All that said, we sought opinions from the masses.

This is not just a mere social issue; this concerns cinema and Malaysian film and this is why we have decided to compile words from the creative community on the matter.

Typically, the first people we decided to ask are Malaysia’s filmmakers but this time, none of them wanted to comment, bar Sabah-based Nadira Illana.

I would hope that the esteemed Perak Tengah district council would exercise the same stringency not just among young potential deviants, but adults who commit actual illicit crimes in and out of the confines of Malaysian cinemas too.

It seems unjust that married couples should be the only ones who get to finger bang in cinemas but if it is true that an arm rest can serve as a moral barrier for couples then I think the future of Malaysian cinema is quite bright.

– Nadira Illana, Filmmaker

On the other hand, our young local writers however were more than willing to defend our cinemas. First up, we have writer and journalist Terence Toh, putting forward his thoughts.

I really don’t think that restricting couple seats, or closing cinemas, is the way to go. I think most people who go to cinemas are just hoping to enjoy a film with their loved ones, and the people who really misbehave are a small minority.

It’s not fair to let the majority suffer for the acts of a minority. I feel the only major sins being committed in cinemas are that many awful films are allowed to air. Going to the movies doesn’t automatically mean you are going to beromen there: sometimes, you just want to watch a good movie, and the people who really want to beromen will probably find another place to do it even if cinemas are closed.

Also, I personally feel the cinema is a relatively wholesome form of entertainment. Many films can either teach us something about history or the world, or encourage us to be better people. If the government really wants to crack down on vice, I feel they should concentrate on places where more vice is committed, such as nightclubs or gambling dens.

– Terence Toh, Writer

Then we went to social media executive by day and journalist by night Kathleen de Cruz to find out her take on the entire thing.

Many will take lightly to this because it doesn’t affect them but any effort to propel Malaysia as a moderate Islamic nation will be ruined by these laws if it penetrates further into other states, cinema operators or even other entertainment outlets.

It’s a shame that energy is spent on coming up with rules and guidelines to discourage immoral behavior when little is done to penalize/eradicate immoral/criminal behavior that already exists – e.g. the red light district in Brickfields.

–Kathleen de Cruz, Writer

We also asked playwright Ariff Kamil, who had something to say about Harussani’s crusade against cinemas.

I’m not too sure about this ruling. I mean, from the .3gp videos I watched when I was younger, I think they would need to close down ladang kelapa sawits, cars and staircases too.

–Ariff Kamil, Writer

Based on a poll done by Astro Awani, approximately a third of respondents want cinemas shut down in Malaysia. That’s right guys, one in three of us think cinemas are the bane of civilisation.

Here are some screencaps from social media indicating how people in general feel about the entire thing.

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And now for an FAQ section.

As LFS Cinemas cannot be reached for comment, we’ve decided to take a look at some of the popular questions cropping up regarding the issue and try to solve them.

Does this ruling affect all the cinemas of the nation?

No, only Seri Iskandar.

Does this ruling affect non-muslims?

No, only Muslims.

What if I wanted to watch a movie with my mum but we want the couple seats as it’s more comfortable?

Your mother is considered muhrim lah, so it’s fine. You may need to prove it however.

What if we’re on our first date and we promise not to make out?

Cannot; no marriage certificate then no couple seat. Make out in regular seat.

What if there are none other than couple seats available for the show I’m planning to watch?

Next time book in advance?

Must we bring in our original marriage certificate or can I bring a photocopy?

…photocopies should be fine, as long as got cop from commissioner of oath?

What if we’re a gay couple?


And what if I wanted to buy a couple seat just for myself?

We’re not sure…

(Yeah, LFS, better get on the phones and start responding to calls before other people such as ourselves and the Perak Mufti answer on your behalf.)

What do you guys think?

How does this entire LFS Couple Seat thing make you feel?

Enraged, we need to band together and do something about it.
Annoyed, but things like this come and go in a matter of days.
It doesn’t affect me, so I don’t really care.
Happy, because about time we put an end to bad behaviour in cinemas.

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The Daily Seni
The Daily Seni delivers news on local arts and culture, aiming to provide insight into Malaysia's ever-growing creative community as well as provoke thought and discussion.

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