21 September 2023

Press statement by MCA Spokesperson Saw Yee Fung

Spirit of diversity breached with saree ban imposed on Indian students: Education Ministry must act against Little Napoleons in schools

A school in the Klang Valley which prohibited its students from wearing traditional clothes of cultures that were not their own must be taken to task. In the so-called instruction, Indian students were barred from donning the saree. The Education Ministry (MoE) is urged to investigate this matter. As such orders violate the spirit of diversity and moderation which students ought to be imbued with, measures ought to be taken to correct this unreasonable and overbearing directive!

Malaysia stands out as a multicultural country. With our population comprising various races that profess different religions, these are the multicultural values of peaceful co-existence that bind us, and should never divide.

No child is born with racist inclinations. School years are the most formative and impressionable years in the life of minors. Through teachings by school authorities and relationships with classmates, students will learn and appreciate Malaysia’s multiple cultures that make up Malaysia.

The practice of being attired in the traditional clothing of one’s own or of another ethnic group expands one’s horizons and should be encouraged in all schools. Worthy of emulation, it certainly does not lessen any person’s ethnic identity. Wearing traditional costumes especially during major celebrations like National Day is an important manifestation of the diverse characteristics of our beloved nation.

However, the instruction by the said school to students or face disciplinary measures is simply puzzling. Even more bizarre was that Indian students were disallowed from wearing sarees. This suggests that the said school’s authorities are ignorant about the characteristics of Malaysia’s multicultural society or trying to impose their values over others.

Not only have they disrespected the traditional culture of all ethnic groups, they have also deprived students of their right to present their cultural identity. The school’s approach is undoubtedly contrary to the multicultural and inclusive values espoused by “Malaysia Madani” advocated by the Unity Government today.

Moreover, prohibiting Indian students from being attired in the saree may cause them to feel ostracised from their own culture, and thus, may exacerbate racial inequalities. Indeed, it would have been wiser if the directive had never been issued.

It is regrettable that incidents of “Little Napoleons” holding sway recur again and again. In addition to dragging the school into controversy, such episodes stir public dissonance which undermine national unity and diversity in Malaysia. Therefore, to prevent cases of multiculturalism being debased from repeating, MoE is urged to not only investigate the matter, but to also take practical actions to tackle such "Little Napoleons" from overstepping their authority to serve as a warning and deterrent.

-MCA online-