Sunday, January 19, 2014

Women in Tudung Should be Free from Discrimination: UMNO Shows Two Faces in Tudung Incidents

Media Statement by Yeo Bee Yin, State Assemblywoman of Damansara Utama on Sunday, 19 January 2014 in Petaling Jaya.

Women in ‘tudung’ as a way of professing her Muslim faith should be free from any forms of discrimination in Malaysia, as guaranteed by the Federal Constitution. Nevertheless, UMNO’s different response to discrimination against women in ‘tudung’ in SRJK (C) Nan Ya to that of the multinational retailers in Kuala Lumpur City Centre (KLCC) clearly showed that it practices “One Malaysia Two Standards”. 

First of all, we are glad to know that the school management board of SRJK(C) Nan Ya has made public apology to the Muslim teacher who was told to take off her ‘tudung’. It is highly commendable that the teacher accepted the apology in such thoughtfulness as she was quoted saying, "I accepted the apology with an open heart and I do hope that the issue will not be further sensationalized as it is clearly a sensitive issue."

We hope that such a regrettable incident will not happen again anywhere in Malaysia, especially in the school, where children are supposed to learn to be respectful to each other. We stand on the principles outlined in Article 8(2) of the Federal Constitution of Malaysia, which states “there shall be no discrimination against citizens on the ground only of religion, race, descent, gender or place of birth in any law or in the appointment to any office or employment” and Article 11(1) which states “everyone has the right to profess and practice his or her own religion”.  Therefore, women in tudung as a way of professing her Muslim faith should be free from any forms of discrimination in Malaysia, as guaranteed by the Federal Constitution.

Nevertheless, we are marveled at UMNO’s huge difference in responding to this discrimination case versus another one that happened in September last year in KLCC.

Last September, a Facebook status by a Muslim lady by the name of Mira Kamil went viral as she shared her experience of blatant discrimination against Muslim women in ‘tudung’ in several international retail stores in KLCC. Her story was later verified by Harian Metro, recorded in a YouTube video, as one of their reporters went undercover to try to seek job in the stores and was refused based on the same reason.

We spoke up against the multinational retailers and urged them to base their recruitment on merit and competency and not by their choice of clothing. We stood on the principles that a Muslim woman should in no way be discriminated because she wears a ‘tudung’. However, UMNO kept unusually quiet then.

In the case of SRJK (C) Nan Ya, we stood on the same principle and urged the director of the school management board to apologize to the teacher. As for UMNO, they have taken a completely different stance. Even after the school’s apology and the concerned teacher accepted it and wished the issue not to be further sensationalized, UMNO is still pursuing the matter relentlessly.

But if UMNO is really the defender of Islam, why did they keep quiet in the face of multinational companies last September and only dare to make noise when it’s ordinary Malaysians? Why one Malaysia two standards? This shows that UMNO is using race and religion to milk political mileage at the expense of national harmony.
Lastly, we would like to remind UMNO that increased racial polarization in Malaysia cannot be solved by offensive approaches but by mutual respect and healthy dialogues. Since we are policy makers albeit from different political divides, we should base our argument on facts and laws and not on emotions and provocations. Malaysia will be a much better place if UMNO can learn to grow up and rise above race and religion in their arguments on national issues.

Yeo Bee Yin