Hotel group demands ‘tudung’ ban explanation

SHAH ALAM, Nov 17 — Malaysian Association of Hotels (MAH) must provide clarification on the so-called “international practice” of its members that prohibit frontline staff from wearing tudung (headscarves).

De Palma Group of Hotels group chief executive officer Azaharul Hisham Sulong Ahmad questioned the association’s controversial statement.

He also found the statement “irrelevant” as there are many top international hotel chains in Islamic countries which allow their staff to wear headscarves.

“We want to know if such a policy exists. If it is true, then most top chains cannot possibly operate in the Middle East.

“When you go to Morocco or Saudi Arabia, for instance, the frontliners of five-stars hotels are allowed to wear hijab, turbans and other headgear, and you don’t hear anyone making a fuss,” he told a press conference at Palma Signature Restaurant here yesterday.

On Sunday, MAH chairman Samuel Cheah Swee Hee said his remark was not Islamophobic in nature but in accordance with the standard operating procedure as imposed by hotels around the world.

Azaharul said MAH should not act as a mouthpiece and needed to correct “the erroneous perspective of its members”.

“We are disappointed that MAH did not correct the views of its members. They must remember there are certain cultural and religious values that we cannot avoid.

“Although we are a Syariah compliant hotel chain, we do not force our non-Muslim staff to conform to the fundamental requirements of the religion because we understand they may not share similar values. The same should apply here.”

Azaharul said the De Palma chain, a subsidiary of Perbadanan Kemajuan Negeri Selangor (PKNS), is distancing itself from the policy, adding it will seriously review its membership with MAH if the remarks are not corrected.

“De Palma is against any form of discrimination and will not be associated with any such elements. We are not looking for an apology but an explanation.”

He said withdrawing from the association would not affect the group’s business.

“We have other obligations to focus on, such as the quality of our service instead of nitpicking on what our frontliners can or cannot wear.”

Separately, Tourism and Culture Minister Datuk Seri Nazri Aziz said yesterday he agreed with Urban Wellbeing, Housing and Local Government Minister Tan Sri Noh Omar’s stand on the issue, adding the government would uphold the rights of all Malaysians.

“Staff who work elsewhere in hotels are allowed to wear the tudung. Is it such a shameful thing to wear that you must be hidden?” he asked.

Nazri added he did not believe the apparent ban was standard operating procedure but rather something enforced randomly by certain individuals.

“I have seen front desk hotel staff in Singapore wearing the tudung. This is simply an attempt to cause friction.”

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