IIUM should promote a true spirit of Malaysia.
The graduate is FooYueh Jiin and with the helps of Parliamentary Opposition Leader and DAP MP for Batu Gajah YB Fong Po Kuan, who is also a law graduate from IIUM, held a press conference in the Parliament yesterday to openly lament IIUM as insensitive to the feelings of non-muslims.
Below is her statement:
IIUM should promote a true spirit of Malaysia
It is most regrettable that the decision of the Cabinet in its Wednesday meeting regarding the International Islamic University of Malaysia (IIUM) regulation requiring non-Muslim students to wear a tudung especially during the convocation ceremony was not made clear to the press and thus created unnecessary confusion among the Malaysian society at large.
Yesterday, the New Straits Times reported that according to several ministers, Cabinet reached a consensus that students, regardless of their religion, should not be coerced into wearing the tudung. It quoted one minister as saying that the Cabinet has also agreed that the tudung should be made optional at graduation ceremonies or convocations.
This is in direct conflict with the The Star report, where the Higher Education Minister, Dr Shafie Salleh was quoted at his post-cabinet briefing as saying that the IIUM convocation garments which comprise tudung are compulsory attire for all female graduates. Dr Shafie Salleh also added that for non-Muslim, they are not required to wear tudung litup (a cloth covering the whole head) but scarves will do.
The same was reported in the Malay Mail, the Berita Harian and Sin Chew Jit Poh, where tudung is described as part of the official dress code for female graduates - either Muslim or non-Muslim - during convocation. Nanyang Siang Pau on the other hand reported Dr Shafie as saying that non-Muslim students are not compelled to wear tudung during the convocation.
We do not know what the Cabinet has actually decided on Wednesday and this is most regrettable in view of the importance of the issue.
The compulsory donning of tudung rule is most insensitive to non-Muslim with regard to their religions, customs and cultures. Since wearing tudung is a distinct symbol of Muslims women in our country, forcing non-Muslims to don a tudung is imposing Islam the religion onto the non-Muslims, and such arbitrary act will not help in promoting a peaceful and tolerance plural society that we so cherish.
Speaking from my personal experience, I was required to wear a proper tudung in the first two years of my studies and a scarf in the later two years. The change from donning a tudung to a scarf came only after the issue of non-Muslims being forced to don a tudung in campus was made public in the Parliament.
There was no option available to me however when the convocation ceremony was held in August this year. All female students were provided with a tudung and whoever that refuses to wear it are not allowed to go into the Hall to receive her scroll. I missed my convocation because I refused to submit to such arbitrary rule.
According to the Rector of IIUM, Prof Dr Mohd Kamal Hassan, non-Muslims female students are required to wear a scarf as “a sign of respect to the religion and the university”. Sadly, by imposing Islamic attire on the non-Muslims, the professor is in fact demanding respect instead of showing the spirit of mutual respect. As long as we dress decently and respect each others’ sensitivities, an attitude all non-Muslims students in IIUM always abide to, we cannot be said to have shown “disrespect” to another by not wearing a tudung. In fact, IIUM as a public institution should be sensitive towards its non-Muslim students, who are the minority in the campus, by demonstrating its openness and inclusiveness according to the true spirit of Islam.
We can see the example in the Cambridge University, where a graduate may request the authority to omit the citing of Trinitarian Formula (a Christian prayer) when his turn come to receive his scroll at the graduation ceremony. Such request is in no way a show of disrespect towards the university, and the University does not suffer from any disrespect when its students of different faiths made such request.
I truly hope that IIUM will review its arbitrary rule and make the donning of tudung during convocation and within the campus an option for its students especially the non-Muslims. This will help in promoting the true spirit of Malaysia as a multi-religion, multi-culture and multi-ethnic society.
Foo Yueh Jiin
Parliament, Kuala Lumpur