MARA should withdraw "tudung labuh" ban

Media Statement
Fong Po Kuan

(Petaling Jaya, Thursday): I call on Majlis Amanah Rakyat or MARA to withdraw the directive to ban female students in Mara Junior Science Colleges (MRSM) from wearing the "tudung labuh" and respect the right of female Muslim students to practice their faith and teaching of Islam.

The ban is not only a restriction on female Muslim students to practice their religion but also what they should wear in practicing their religion. It is utterly unreasonable for the few in authority to impose their individual interpretation of what is correct and proper dressing in Islam on female Muslim students in the said institution. It is common practice for female Muslims to wear the tudung labuh.

Of late, there have been a number of cases highlighting the lack of respect and sensitivity on the part of the authorities in institutions of higher learning with regards to the religious practices of students.  For instance, non-Muslims students of the International Islamic University (IIUM) were required to wear the tudung. At the Ungku Omar Polytechnic, Ipoh, a directive was issued requiring all female students to wear the tudung and all male students to wear the songkok for their graduation ceremony. 

Although the Education Ministry had clarified in Parliament that there is no compulsion on non-Muslim students to wear the tudung, nonetheless they are still encouraged to cover their hair with a scarf and non-Muslims students are still required to wear the tudung and songkok for their graduation, purportedly for ceremonial purposes. Such practice is unacceptable as IIUM is not a place of worship but an institution of higher learning. In the case of Ungku Omar Polytechnic, Ipoh, the directive was withdrawn.

These instances show the urgent need for the authorities in institutions of higher learning to recognize the racial and religious
diversity of our multi- racial and multi-religious society. Directives issued to limit, restrict and interfere with the rights of students in practicing their religion only go to show the lack of sensitivity, respect and intolerant attitude of those in authority.

The authorities' imposition of their own interpretation of a religious teaching or practice on believers and also believers of other religions must be checked as it sets a dangerous precedent.


* Fong Po Kuan, Member of Parliament for Batu Gajah and DAP Socialist Youth (DAPSY) National Executive Committee