Malaysian Muslims detained over early Eid celebration

KUALA LUMPUR, September  9, 2010 (AFP) - Malaysian religious officials said Thursday they had detained and fined nine members of an Islamic sect for celebrating the Eid al-Fitr holiday two days early.

The Eid festival, marking the end of the fasting month of Ramadan, has been declared on Friday for most parts of the world including Malaysia, but members of Jamiah Al-Zikri Awwalun were caught already celebrating on Wednesday.

The group in the northern state of Perlis is one of several fringe Islamic sects under close watch by Malaysian religious authorities, which crack down hard on so-called deviant groups that deviate from orthodox teachings.

"The group's celebration of Eid is clearly different from how Muslims celebrate Eid in Malaysia and they violated state Sharia law in doing this," Abdul Malik Hussin, head of the Perlis Islamic religious department, told AFP.

He said that religious authorities released the group members after they paid a fine.

In Malaysia the holy day is determined by local lunar observation and proclaimed by a representative of the country's nine state monarchs, who are viewed as the defenders of the faith.