IIU can make non-Muslims wear headscarvesOct 26, 05 4:47pm
The government has endorsed a university's ruling that requires non-Muslim women to wear headscarves (or 'tudung') on its campuses.
The minister in charge of national unity, Maximus Ongkili, said the decision by the International Islamic University earlier this year was not a religious one, but merely part of university procedures. "As the rule was approved by the university senate, it is not religious in nature but a matter of uniforms that must be followed. It does not breach basic human rights," Ongkili was quoted as saying in the Star daily. The growing influence of Islam on Malaysian society over the past two decades has seen a major increase in the number of Malay Muslim women wearing headscarves as a sign of religious devotion. Ongkili told Parliament that Malaysians had to respect rules formulated by the government and other institutions to prevent social unrest. "In a multi-racial country each community must respect one another. But at the same time we must respect the laws of the country, institutions and organisations to ensure there is no disturbance to the community," he said.
Why the change now? He was responding to opposition leader Lim Kit Siang, who had read out an email from a non-Muslim undergraduate from the university complaining she was forced to wear a headscarf to her graduation ceremony. Lim accused the government of recanting on an April statement that non-Muslims would be "encouraged" but not forced to wear headscarves. "So why the change now? Is this not disrespectful of a plural society," he said. The government-funded International Islamic University has three campuses around Malaysia. Its board includes representatives from the governments of Pakistan, Libya, Egypt, the Maldives, Bangladesh and Turkey, as well as the Organisation of the Islamic Conference.