Tuesday, July 23, 2013
Putrajaya pledged stern action today against the authorities of a primary school if allegations that it had forced its non-Muslim students to eat in the toilets during Ramadan are proven true.
Deputy Prime Minister Tan Sri Muhyiddin Yassin, who is also the education minister, confirmed on his Twitter page this afternoon that the incident will be investigated and punishment meted to those responsible.
“Saya telah mengarahkan KPPM utk siasat isu pelajar bukan Islam yg disuruh makan di dalam tandas. Tindakan tegas akan diambil jika ada asas,” Muhyiddin wrote on the microblogging site.
[Translation: I have directed the KPPM (director-general of education) to investigate the issue of non-Muslim students instructed to eat in the toilet. Stern action will be taken if there is basis (to the allegation)].
Deputy Education Minister II P. Kamalanathan also took to his Twitter profile earlier today, expressing the ministry’s concern over the issue.
“The ministry views such issues with gravity and will surely take stern action to ensure its (sic) not repeated,” he said in a posting.
Pictures depicting non-Muslim primary school students allegedly eating their recess meals in a toilet due to the ongoing Ramadan fasting month has Malaysians up in arms on the Internet.
Posted by a mother by the name of Guneswari Kelly on social network Facebook, the photographs appear to show several non-Muslim children and even adults at a school named as SRK Sri Pristana in Sungai Buloh taking their recess in the lavatory even as the school canteen went unoccupied.
According to her, the children were directed not to use the canteen — shown cordoned off in the pictures — as they would “dirty” the area. Instead, they were told to go to the school’s changing rooms and lavatories, and ordered to stay there for the duration of their recess.
According to Kamalanathan, the school has been ordered to remove the temporary eating place from the changing room.
But he criticised the decision nevertheless, saying the school could have easily solved the problem by identifying a proper replacement location as well as hiring a temporary canteen operator.
“It is not the right thing to do; the school could have appointed a temporary canteen operator to run the operations during Ramadan.
“If the canteen is under renovation, a proper place should have been identified, surely not the ‘changing room’,” he said on Twitter.
The Malay Mail Online’s attempt to call the school for comment went unanswered.
The incident is reminiscent of a 2010 incident in Kedah, when the headmistress of Sekolah Menegah Kebangsaan Bukit Selambau accused Chinese pupils there of being insensitive towards their Muslim peers by eating in the school compound during the fasting month of Ramadan, before ordering them to “return to China” if they could not respect the culture of other races.
Although the school head later apologised, the incident and others in the same vein led to accusations of perceived tolerance for racism within the government and the civil service that some blamed on programmes conducted by the National Civics Bureau (BTN).
Following calls for her dismissal, the headmistress later apologised while the Education Department also formed a taskforce to probe the incident.
The latest incident also comes during a time of renewed religious tension in the country, with the Muslim-Christian tussle over the Arabic word “Allah” set to return to court after a four-year hiatus.
The 2009 High Court decision upholding the Catholic Church’s constitutional right to use the word “Allah” had shocked Muslims who considered the word to only refer to the Muslim God. It also led to Malaysia’s worst religious strife, with houses of worship throughout the country coming under attack.
Two weeks ago, a pair of bloggers also invited Muslim ire after they posted a photograph on Facebook touting a pork dish as an appetising meal with which to break the Ramadan fast. Pork is expressly forbidden to Muslims.
The two have since been charged for the deed, among others, while police also allege that their action led to the kidnap and assault of a youth in Shah Alam, for which four men were yesterday charged.
Muslims are obliged to observe a fast from dawn to dusk for 30 days during the holy month of Ramadan, which began this year on July 10.
Muslims are the country’s dominant religious group and represent over 60 per cent of Malaysia’s population of 28 million.