KUALA LUMPUR, Nov 17 ― The freedom for workers to express their religions must be protected, the Human Rights Commission of Malaysia (Suhakam) said today.
“(The commission) counsels strongly that the freedom to manifest one’s religion or belief without discrimination must be protected in the workplace,” Suhakam chairman Tan Sri Razali Ismail said in a statement.
“While employment contracts can stipulate specific employment conditions, these shall not imply whether directly or indirectly discriminatory practices which may amount to a waiver of the right to freedom of religion and expression,” he added.
Suhakam was responding to ongoing debate on the purported practice by certain international hotel chains here barring Muslim female frontline staff from wearing tudung or headscarves while at work.
The Malaysian Association of Hotels (MAH) recently caused controversy after it justified the reported policies of some hotels banning female Muslim frontline staff from wearing tudung, claiming that the practice was in line with an international policy.
The statement has been roundly criticised by both members of the ruling coalition and Opposition politicians.
Razali said that employment contracts should be grounded on Article 8 of the Federal Constitution which provides for equality and non discrimination.
“Appropriate measures to prevent and eliminate all forms of intolerance, inequality and discrimination based on religion or belief must accordingly be in place in all sectors of employment,” he added.
He said that any limitation to the ability to express religion at a workplace must only limited to issues concerning public safety or fundamental liberty of others, as stated in Article 18(3) of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights.