Education Minister: Non-Muslims, non-fasting students should eat at school canteen

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Education Minister Fadhlina Sidek today said the ministry did not want to see any students being forced to eat in “inappropriate” conditions at school throughout Ramadan.

She also defended a ministry’s directive for school canteens to continue operating during Ramadan, stating that it had already been practised since last year.

“I have stressed the importance of making non-Muslim students understand about the practice of their Muslim friends and for them to respect each other.

“I don’t want there to be non-Muslim children, children who are not fasting, eating in a storeroom, inappropriate places, when in every school there is a canteen,” she said.

“They have to go to the canteen and eat and Muslim students who are fasting will be managed by their teachers,” she added.

Responding to Salamiah Mohd Nor (PN-Temerloh), Fadhlina said her initial remarks were made as a reply to a question asked during the first day of a school visit.

She said the same question on canteen operations during Ramadan was raised last year and the ministry had also suggested that the canteen remains open.

Yesterday, PAS ulama wing chief Ahmad Yahaya accused Fadhlina of triggering an “unnecessary” polemic and that the ministry should instead focus on educating Muslim students about the importance of fasting and their non-Muslim counterparts to respect the practice.

Previously, Fadhlina’s insistence for canteens to remain open was also made despite a recommendation from Persatuan Pengusaha Kantin Sekolah Malaysia to stop operations if the schools have less than 10 percent non-Muslim students.

Meanwhile, a DAP MP has called on PAS and PN to stop politicising the school canteen operational period during Ramadan.

Bangi MP Syahredzan Johan said it is disappointing that the directive for school canteens to operate during Ramadan, which was made based on good and humanitarian values, was turned into a political controversy by PAS.

He believed that there were a number of reasons for school canteens to remain open during the fasting month, including the presence of non-Muslim students and teachers who are not fasting.

“We should not forget about incidents reported in the past where non-Muslims students had to eat in school bathrooms and other inappropriate places during Ramadan.

“Does PAS leaders like Datuk Haji Ahmad Yahaya have no compassion for these children?

“The purpose and intention of the Education Ministry’s announcement (over the directive) the other day were good and based on humanitarian values.

“Therefore, it is very disappointing when PAS and PN leaders turned this into a political controversy,” Syahredzan, who is also DAP central executive committee member, said in a statement today.

He added that PAS and PN have once again shown that their political stance is not in line with a multicultural and multi-religious country like Malaysia.

“It is clear that they are more inclined to issue divisive statements rather than foster unity.

“Therefore, I urge PAS and PN to stop politicising our children’s school canteens. Matters like this should not be tainted with their narrow politics,” he said.