GBM: Education Ministry must affirm non-Islamic faiths’ legitimate presence in schools

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Graphic: Free Malaysia Today

Gabungan Bertindak Malaysia (GBM) urges Education Minister Muhyiddin Yassin to issue a circular to all schools to affirm non-Islamic faiths’ legitimate presence in schools, in accordance with the spirit of Article 3 and Article 11 of the Federal Constitution.

GBM holds that the recent event where a senior assistant at Sekolah Rendah Kebangsaan Ibrahim, Sungai Petani advised non-Muslim students to drink water only in toilet or drink “even their urine” is symptomatic of prevalent religious bigotry in public education institutions in Malaysia.

GBM holds that the Education Ministry must be held responsible for not stopping the spread of such a bigoted view – that non-Islamic faiths must cease to be visible in public space if some Muslims were to feel uncomfortable.

As religious compulsion and intolerance are prohibited in Islam, those bigots are in no way representing Islam and the vast majority of Muslims who believe in justice and the fraternity of all humans.

The failure of the Education Ministry to combat such bigotry has marred the good name of Islam and undermined national unity.

GBM urges Deputy Education Minister Mary Yap to retract her comment that non-Muslim students should eat and drink in private during fasting month.

GBM says views like Yap’s are exactly why non-Muslims find their religious identity to be an eyesore for those who believe that only Islam should have a public presence in Malaysia.

Instead, there must be proper arrangements to provide for food and drink in the school compound for both non-Muslim students and those Muslim children who cannot fast because of age, health or other considerations.

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GBM stresses that the Education Ministry is duty-bound to put a stop to such bigotry which is undermining the nationhood of Malaysia, which was formed in 1963 as a secular federation empowering her plural society.

Article 3 of the Federal Constitution states clearly that while Islam is the religion of the Federation, non-Islamic faiths “may be practised in peace and harmony in any part of the Federation”. Article 11 furthers guarantees religious freedom with nothing consigning non-Islamic faiths to the private sphere.

The Sungai Petani incident is but a replay of an incident two years ago, when the headmaster of Sekolah Kebangsaan Seri Pristana in Sungai Buloh ordered non-Muslim students to eat in a changing room during the fasting month.

In another recent development, a discipline teacher in SMK Taman Sri Muda confiscated a student’s cross-shaped necklace.

This incident is part of a wider trend to remove non-Islamic symbols in public schools, resulting in mission schools being pressured to remove their cross, the latest victim being Sekolah Kebangsaan St Mary Labuk in Sandakan.

GBM calls upon all Malaysians to scrutinise the Education Ministry’s responses to the spread of religious bigotry in public schools.

This statement is endorsed by the following Member Organisations of Gabungan Bertindak Malaysia (GBM):

  1. Aliran
  2. Anak Muda Sarawak (AMS)
  3. All Women’s Action Society (Awam)
  4. Kumpulan Aktivis Mahasiswa Independen (Kami)
  5. Islamic Renaissance Front (IRF)
  6. LLG Cultural Development Centre (LLG)
  7. Majlis Perundingan Malaysia Agama Buddha, Kristian, Hindu, Sikh dan Tao (MCCBCHST)
  8. Muslim Professionals Forum (MPF)
  9. National Indian Rights Action Team (Niat)
  10. Negeri Sembilan Chinese Assembly Hall (NSCAH)
  11. Persatuan Bekas Siswazah Universiti dan Kolej di China, Malaysia (LiuHua)
  12. Pusat Komunikasi Masyarakat (Komas)
  13. Persatuan Masyarakat Selangor dan Wilayah Persekutuan (Permas)
  14. Saya Anak Bangsa Malaysia (SABM)
  15. Suara Rakyat Malaysia (Suaram)
  16. The Federation & Alumni Associations Taiwan University, Malaysia (FAATUM)
  17. Tamil Foundation Malaysia (TF)
  18. The Kuala Lumpur and Selangor Chinese Assembly Hall (KLSCAH)
  19. United Chinese School Alumni Associations of Malaysia (UCSAAM)
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