Muslim musclemen in Sarawak state plan to defy a religious edict banning them from participating in body-building contests, which has sparked new controversy amid a national debate over the place of Islamic laws in Malaysian society. The Sarawak Religious Affairs Department announced that Muslims taking part in body-building contests would be arrested for exposing their aurat - any part of a man's body between the navel and thighs - which is forbidden under Islamic law. In June, Selangor state religious officials arrested three young Muslim women for taking part in a beauty contest. They were fined by a religious court after being convicted of indecency for exposing their aurat, which in the case of women is the entire body except for the face and hands. The manner of the arrests, which were made without warning or precedent, prompted women's groups to complain that the authorities' action was unfair and unnecessarily humiliating. Prime Minister Dr Mahathir Mohamad also condemned the move. The Sarawak Religious Affairs Department warned in a letter to the state body-building association that legal action would be taken against Muslim participants 'in the middle of the contest and in the presence of VIPs, guests and audience'. But three Muslims were reportedly planning to enter the forthcoming Mr Kuching body-building contest after agreeing to sign a letter acknowledging they had seen the directive. The latest development came after Dr Mahathir told an Islamic conference that no one, including the highest-ranking religious officials, could 'make their own unquestionable decisions and force them on Muslims'. Dr Mahathir has set up a committee to study how Islamic law can be enforced uniformly in Malaysia, where states have virtual autonomy in religious affairs.