But nothing has been said about the school canteens that have been out-of-bounds for years to non-Muslim children during the fasting month. This is the real issue that needs a permanent solution.
A ministerial directive should be issued to all Sekolah Kebangsaan (as other schools don’t have this problem) that canteens must be made available for the use of non-Muslims during Ramadan.
What is the problem to issue such a ministerial directive? Is it true that eating or drinking in the presence of Muslims in the fasting month is something disrespectful? Are those who tell non-Muslim schoolchildren to hide in the toilets to eat and drink follow the true teachings of Prophet Muhammad, especially about treating non-believers with dignity?
A few days ago, I was at a meeting where the other attendees were all Muslims. One of them made a cup of tea for me and I had it sitting on the same table with them. Was that disrespectful? Or did the person who made the tea act in an un-Islamic way by offering me a drink in the fasting month?
Whether one is disrespectful or insensitive when eating or drinking in the presence of Muslims who are fasting depends on how it is done, and not on the mere act of eating or drinking.
It would be rude, impolite and disrespectful if the person who is fasting is mockingly asked to join you to eat or drink; if by your body language you try to show how delicious the food is; or if you offer a plate of food or a cup of drink. If you have to eat or drink when in the company of fasting persons (Muslim or non-Muslim), it is only proper that you politely ask to be excused before eating or drinking. I have done this many a time, and never have the fasting persons ever indicated verbally or by body language that they are offended or don’t want me to eat in their presence.
They always say “please carry on” or words to that effect. They respect my need to have my food, while I acknowledge that they are fasting. When we are with friends, it is normal to invite them to join us for a meal or a drink.
We may not know if anyone is fasting, (e.g. Hindus, Christians and Chinese also fast), but the person fasting never gets offended. He will sit together chit-chatting while you have your meal. So, why are some Sekolah Kebangsaan making such a fuss? What moral and religious values are they teaching the children?
School authorities who brazenly dictate what the non-Muslims should do or should not do in schools, supposedly not to offend the sensitivities of or to show their respect to Muslims, are indicative of the failure of two subjects taught from Year One, i.e., Religious Studies and Moral Education.
If the Sekolah Kebangsaan cannot show some respect for non-Muslim children during Ramadan, then don’t take any of them in. Don’t make Ramadan an excuse to practise racism. Non-Muslims should have the good sense to be courteous.
This is what Moral Education should be teaching them. And Agama lessons should be teaching Muslim pupils to be humble and forgiving, to respect non-Muslims who may be eating their normal meals in their sight and within smelling distance.
Racism in schools is real. It is dangerous to allow it to go on. Natonal interests must come before that of any individual or political party..
What use will all the wealth of the nation be if there is no harmony? Slogans will not achieve peace. Firm, consistent action is needed. Ravinder Singh, Penang The NST Letters to the Editors 29 June 2015