PETALING JAYA, July 23 — Pictures depicting non-Muslim primary school students allegedly forced to eat 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.
“Is this fair? Can school treat like this. No food serve n no canteen. That bathroom is full of bacteria n smell becoz its a bathroom n next door toilet with the horrible smell,” Guneswari wrote in the post.
“Is it fair for a sekolah kebangsaan sri pristana treatment our non Muslim children like this during puasa month?”
Calls to 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.