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Time: Malaysian Metal, Unplugged
By Bryan Walsh

5/9/2001 8:59 am Wed magazine/0,9754,173501,00.html

Time Magazine
Issue 10th September 2001

Malaysian Metal, Unplugged

Mahathir cracks down on 'black metal' cults


Mahathir Mohamad's government has cracked down on radical Islamic fundamentalists and opposition parties, but the political and the religious aren't the only ones feeling the sting. Another group has been targeted: so-called black metal cults. If you're a young Malaysian who likes heavy metal music, dancing in public and generally acting like a roadie at a Black Sabbath tour, it may be time to lay low-and get a haircut.

In the northern state of Kedah, officially described as the center of the metal cults, more than 700 youths have been detained since the campaign began in mid-July, accused of religious desecration, devil worshipping, blood drinking, drug use and engaging in free sex. (They were released after being questioned and given religious counseling.) Long-hairs found loafing in public areas have been threatened with forced haircuts, and a number of schools in Kedah strip-searched their entire student population, looking for tattoos depicting satanic symbols. Authorities raided shops selling black-metal paraphernalia and confiscated 4,000 magazines, 180 video cassettes and 68 CDs in one five-day operation in the Klang Valley.

In academic and opposition party circles, the suspicion is that something truly nefarious is going on-on the part of Mahathir's administration. "The government is using this as an excuse for curbing the opposition," says Dr. Chandra Muzaffar, deputy president of the opposition Keadilan, or National Justice Party, and ally of jailed opposition leader Anwar Ibrahim. When authorities confiscate black-metal VCDs, Muzaffar claims, "they're also targeting the VCDs of opposition parties." K.S. Jomo, a political economy professor, speculates that Mahathir's UMNO might be exaggerating reports of a cult to rally public support for greater repression. "Once you've accepted the oppression of one group," he says, "it's easier for the government to isolate and repress others."

UMNO Youth Secretary Zulkifli Alwi insists the cults are real, though he concedes that they are smaller than originally feared. "Action must be taken to curb the problem before it gets worse," Zulkifli says. "We do not want such a lifestyle to become the norm among young people in Malaysia." Though discontent with Mahathir's carefully constructed order continues to simmer, it's clear that rebellion won't be dressed in black.

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