Malaysia has arrested nearly 100 Muslims in a religious crackdown on Valentine's Day, officials said Tuesday, after Islamic authorities warned the celebration encourages "vice activities".
Raids across the capital and central Selangor state saw 96 individuals detained for "khalwat", or "close proximity", an Islamic law barring Muslims from being alone with someone of the opposite sex other than their spouse.
The mass arrests came after religious authorities in the Muslim-majority nation warned against "immoral acts" during Valentine's Day, saying they wanted to promote a sin-free lifestyle.
In Kuala Lumpur, religious enforcement officers raided budget hotels and public parks ahead of Valentine's Day detaining 16 Muslims, mainly teenagers, a spokesman from the Federal Territory Islamic Affairs Department told AFP.
"The operation was part our regular raids to stop 'khalwat'," said Asmawi Umar, adding the teenagers had paid around 50 ringgit ($15) for a hotel room for two hours.
In Selangor, 80 Muslims were rounded up during raids between midnight and 6am on Valentine's Day, according to media reports, quoting state religious authorities.
They face up to two years in jail and a fine if convicted in an Islamic sharia court.
Under Malaysia's dual-track legal system sharia courts can try Muslims for religious and moral offences. More than 60 percent of the nation's 28 million population are Muslim Malays.
Religious authorities last week launched a campaign called "Mind the Valentine's Day trap" to condemn the celebration and said they would reject anything that contravenes Islamic teachings.
"In reality, as well as historically, the celebration of Valentine's Day is synonymous with vice activities," said Wan Mohamad Sheikh Abdul Aziz, head of Malaysia Islamic Development Department, which oversees the country's Islamic policies.
However rights groups have previously said that such moral crackdowns hurt Malaysia's image as a moderate and progressive Muslim nation.