Mahadzir should clear the issue of dress code for non-Muslim students of IIUM by directing IIUM to remove the controversial regulation

Press Statement
by Fong Po Kuan

(Ipoh, Tuesday): Today’s media reported the Parliamentary Secretary to the Education Ministry, Dato Mahadzir Mohd Khir as saying that non-Muslim female undergraduates were not forced to wear the tudung at the International Islamic University Malaysia (IIUM) and that the students were wearing it “out of respect.” 

He further said that he was in touched with the rector and was assured that the students who do so were doing it on a voluntary basis. 

Although some credit should be given to Mahadzir for keeping in touch with the rector of IIUM to verify the allegation made by DAP in this respect, I am however saddened to hear that the rector has not given a truthful reply to the Ministry and that Mahadzir has accepted a one-sided information happily without hearing the other side of the story from the non-Muslim students. 

When this issue was raised in the Parliament in the last session by MP for Kota Melaka, Kerk Kim Hock, Mahadzir’s reply was as follows (DR: 3.4.2003): 

“…memang tidak ada penyelesaian baginya, tetapi inilah sebaik-baiknya yang kita beri, yang mana saya kata yang bukan Islam kita galak, boleh jadi mereka memakai itu, dia rasa dia paksa diri dia, tak usalah paksa diri.  Itu bagi saya, saya telah katakan tadi, Tuan Pengerusi, kalau ada surat arahan yagn sedemikian rupa, mewajibkan penuntut bukan Islam memakainya, saya kata sila buktikan dengan surat arahan itu, bawa kepada saya, saya sanggup mengambil tanggungjawab itu kepada diri saya…” 

When he challenged the DAP to produce the regulations of IIUM stating the said requirement (which the DAP did produce), Mahadzir then avoided the issue and told the DAP not to politicize the issue by saying that the IIUM rules require non-Muslim students to respect the Islamic code of conduct and comply with the university rules and regulations.  He further clarified by saying, "What it means is that in terms of dress code, you do not wear mini-skirts or singlets." (NST, 10.4.2003) 

The statement made by Mahadzir obviously did not address the issue raised by the DAP. 

However, yesterday Mahadzir admitted the existence of such regulation but alleged that it had been misinterpreted by some quarters (The Star 20.5.2003).  He has again asked the DAP to stop politicizing or exaggerating the issue. 

In response, I would like to stress that I have no interest in politicizing or exaggerating the issue but am only interested to talk about facts and reality, my experience in the university for four years.   

I therefore challenge the Parliamentary Secretary to the Education Ministry to meet with the non-Muslim students of IIUM to see and hear for himself the real situation faced by the non-Muslim students if they do not wear the tudung in the campus. In this way, it would also put an end to the Ministry’s accusation against the DAP of trying to exaggerate or politicize this issue. I am all ready to walk into my former university with Mahadzir to meet with the students. But is Mahadzir prepared to do so? 

I wish to remind Mahadzir that whether one wears or refuses to wear the tudung in campus is not the yardstick to measure one’s respect to another’s religion. The directive to “encourage” non-Muslim students to wear the tudung can be equated to impliedly forcing such requirement on them if such yardstick is used to identify one’s respect or non-respect to the religion of Islam.  Perhaps, Mahadzir should explain the difference between the term “required” and “respect” in this issue.  To me, I see no different. 

If Mahadzir is truly sensitive to other religions and desires to present a proper image of Islam to others, now is the time for him to act by calling on the IIUM authority to remove the said dress code regulation on non-Muslim female students, which Mahadzir has admitted causing much “misinterpretation” and further issue a directive to the IIUM authority to advise the students that they are free to wear or not to wear the tudung and that they have the assurance that they would not face any repercussions in the event they decide not to wear the tudung.


* Fong Po Kuan,  MP for Batu Gajah and DAP Assistant National Publicity Secretary