GEORGE TOWN: Healthy Muslims in Penang caught deliberately eating or drinking in public during the month of Ramadan can be subject to legal action such as fines or imprisonment or both.

Penang Deputy Chief Minister I Datuk Ahmad Zakiyuddin Abdul Rahman said they could be prosecuted under Section 15 of the Penang Syariah Criminal Law Enactment 1996, which provides for a fine not exceeding RM1,000 or imprisonment not exceeding six months or both for the first offence, if convicted.

Ahmad Zakiyuddin, who is also Penang Islamic Religious Council (MAINPP) president, said that for the second or subsequent offences, they can be fined not more than RM2,000 or imprisoned not more than a year or both.

"During the fasting month, Penang will organise a campaign to honour Ramadan by holding an integrated operation, which is one of the manifestations of the state's Islamic administration's initiative to invite Muslims to glorify the holy month together.

"The objective of the integrated operation is to raise the awareness of Muslims as well as to eradicate acts of disrespect for the month of Ramadan such as deliberately eating or drinking in public while not being sick," he said in a statement today.

Ahmad Zakiyuddin said under Section 15, action can also be taken against any person during Ramadan for selling to any Muslim food, drinks, cigarettes or other similar things to be eaten, drunk or smoked immediately in public during that time.

"The operation will be carried out by the Penang Islamic Religious Affairs Department (JHEAIPP) in collaboration with agencies such as the Penang City Council (MBPP), Seberang Perai City Council (MBSP), the Penang Health Department and the JHEAIPP Halal Management Division," he said.

He said so far, the JHEAIPP had identified about 120 hotspots and the operation would also focus on aspects of premises hygiene and food handling, compliance with licence application conditions and other relevant provisions in accordance with the laws and regulations in force.

"We hope that this integrated operation will be able to raise awareness for Muslims in Penang to make Ramadan this year the best Ramadan of all," he said.