Malaysia Stops SMS Contest
By Staff
Malaysia's second largest mobile telephone company, Celcom Mobile, has stopped a short message service (SMS) contest offering new cars for winners after warnings from Islamic authorities that the competition contained elements of gambling.

In a brief statement, the Kuala Lumpur-based firm revealed that it had temporarily halted its 100 Days, 100 Cars SMS campaign on the advice of the Malaysian Islamic Development Department, a Government institution that handles religious affairs. The Department stated that it would consult a Syariah advisory panel to decide whether the contest was permissible under Islamic law.

The competition was set to run until September 9 and awarded subscribers who answered the most quiz questions correctly each day with a new Toyota car. Each SMS costs $1.50 instead of the average six cents but Celcom Mobile defended the high cost by stating that each message also came with new content for participants such as ring tones.

'In Islam, we call this gambling,” said Mohamad Asri Zainul Abidin, the Mufti for the northern state of Perlis.

“Such contests should be stopped because you pay but you buy nothing.'

Abidin stated that consumers could end up being saddled with high phone bills in the hope of winning.

Ethnic Malay Muslims make up about 60 percent of Malaysia's 27 million people and while the Malaysian Islamic Development Department has no formal power to order Celcom Mobile to stop the contest, its decision is likely to be supported by the Government. Datuk Ahmad Zahid Hamidi, Minister for Religious Affairs, recently said that Malaysian companies should seek the advice of religious experts before launching such contests.

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