JOHOR BARU, Dec 6 — A DAP leader today suggested that Malaysians should embrace the country’s diversity and moderation or risk irrelevance, after one party colleague criticised Segambut MP Hannah Yeoh for wearing a hijab.

Johor DAP vice-chief Sheikh Umar Bagharib Ali said such traits were important as Malaysia was multicultural.

“We not only need to respect the culture, religion and views of others, but we must also realise that times have changed.

“We should adhere to such developments or we ourselves will be left behind,” said Sheikh Umar, responding to fellow Johor DAP member Dr Boo Cheng Hau’s remarks over the weekend against Yeoh for wearing a hijab headscarf to a mosque.

Sheikh Umar, who is also the Johor DAP Youth chief and the Paloh assemblyman, said Yeoh’s decision to put on the hijab was appropriate when visiting a mosque.

He said Islam does not prohibit non-Muslims from entering mosques as supported by the Syafi'e, Hambali and Hanafi schools of thought.

“However, some conditions must be complied with such as obtaining permission from the mosque’s management, dressing decently, including complying with the dress code such as wearing a headscarf, maintaining cleanliness and not doing prohibited activities that conflict with the sanctity of the mosque as a place of worship for Muslims,” he said.

Sheikh Umar, a graduate in Islamic studies majoring in Usuluddin, added that visiting people to assist them, irrespective of their religious or racial backgrounds, was also encouraged and advocated for in Islam.

He noted that a hadith (a collection of traditions containing sayings of Prophet Muhammad) in which the Prophet Muhammad had stood as a sign of respect when the funeral parade of a Jew passed in front of him.

Sheikh Umar said Boo should not have accused Yeoh of wearing a hijab to court Malay support, noting that the group was also part of her constituents.

“The Segambut parliamentary constituency (under Yeoh) consists of a majority of non-Malay voters where the Malays are only around 28 per cent while the Chinese make up 59 per cent.

“If it is true that Yeoh wants to gain the support of the Malay Muslim voters in Segambut, it is commended because it means that she cares for minority groups in her constituency,” he said.

Sheikh Umar explained that he initially did not want to participate in the argument.

“It is healthy in terms of freedom of speech, and yet this cultural political polemic between Dr Boo and Yeoh should not be too extreme to the point of annoying many others,” he said.

Last Saturday, Dr Boo and others criticised Yeoh after she was photographed wearing a hijab when visiting a mosque in Kuala Lumpur last week.

Dr Boo, a former Johor DAP leader, alleged that Yeoh’s decision to don the hijab was a move to appease the Malays.

However, Yeoh has gotten support and encouragement from several political leaders, including DAP secretary-general Lim Guan Eng, Muar MP Syed Saddiq Syed Abdul Rahman and Umno’s Pengerang MP Datuk Seri Azalina Othman Said.