KUALA LUMPUR, May 5 — An Islamic kindergarten has defended its pupils’ dressing in military garb and holding toy guns, saying they were merely participating in a play on the Israel-Palestine conflict.
Tadika Hidayah Bestari, based in Bandar Sri Damansara, told local daily New Straits Times that the play was held in 2014 in collaboration with a non-governmental organisation, the Malaysian Consultative Council of Islamic Organisations (Mapim), that had raised funds for war victims in Palestine and Syria.
“The children in the pictures that went viral on social media were dressed in military costumes and held toy guns because they were re-enacting the situation in Palestine,” the Tadika Hidayah Bestari headmistress, who did not want to be named, was quoted saying.
“Mapim is a registered organisation. Parents who attended the play donated to Mapim, hoping the sum collected would help Palestinians. It is an annual event, where students will perform in plays. We will have slideshows and show videos of those affected by the Palesetinian-Israeli conflict to expose our pupils and their parents to the suffering that war victims go through,” she added.
She also reportedly said that the teacher who had uploaded the pictures of the children on Instagram had resigned back in February.
The matter came to light when lawyer Siti Kasim uploaded on her Facebook page a few photos from Instagram user _sitifathimah that depicted the teacher wearing a full face veil and little boys carrying toy guns, as well as little girls in long headscarves and robes.
“What kind of Islam do you think they are teaching the kids you think? I hope the authorities will look into this....” Siti wrote on Facebook Tuesday.
According to Tadika Hidayah Bestari’s Facebook page, which is inactive, the private preschool teaches Islam as a “way of life” and describes itself as an “Islamic school”.
Bukit Aman Special Branch director Datuk Seri Fuzi Harun told Malay Mail yesterday that the kindergarten has been under police radar since last year, adding that the police were monitoring kindergartens nationwide to ensure they were not being used to train child soldiers.
Malaysian police have been working at countering the Islamic State locally, with Inspector-General of Police Tan Sri Khalid Abu Bakar saying yesterday that its move to embed officers with the Selangor religious authorities was aimed at battling the militant movement.