Kuala Lumpur, Feb 7
Ethnic Indian Hindus in
Malaysia have strongly criticised a Muslim cleric's suggestions that
Prime Minister Najib Razak should not have donned a "Hindu" attire, nor
should he have been garlanded at a "Hindu" ceremony, media reported
Malaysian Prime Minister Razak donned the kurta and was
garlanded at the Tamil Thaipusam celebrations in Batu Caves near Kuala
Lumpur Tuesday, to which the mufti of the Malaysian state of Perlis,
Mohammad Asri Zainul Abidin, took umbrage, the Malaysian Insider
Malaysian Hindu Sangam president R.S. Mohan Shan said
that presenting a garland was, in fact, a sign of respect for honoured
"It has always been the Indian way of respecting others.
It is an important aspect of our culture and has nothing to do with
religion," he told The Malaysian Insider.
"There is nothing in the Quran that says Muslims cannot be presented with garlands," he added.
had said that the prime minister's advisors should have been firm on
the matter and informed the organisers of the function that he would
attend on the condition that he would not take part in any Hindu ritual.
is what Islam forbids. Muslim leaders are not prohibited from attending
other religious festivals, but there are rules and limits," the cleric
R.Nadarajah, chairman of the Batu Caves' Sri Subramaniam
temple, said that it was a tradition to garland any distinguished guest
at a function as a sign of respect.
"Many sultans, prime
ministers, chief ministers and other dignitaries have attended Thaipusam
celebrations at Batu Caves," he said, adding, "As a mark of respect, we
garland them. This is tradition. Datuk Seri Najib attended as our guest
and we did the same."
Razak did not enter the temple and was
just at Batu Caves to perform his official duty as the prime minister,
M. Saravanan, vice-president of the Malaysian Indian Congress, said.
is this being made into an issue? The mufti has failed to understand
that the kurta and the garland are cultural elements for Indians. They
are not a Hindu thing," he said, adding that Najib was prime minister
for all Malaysians.
Hitting out at the mufti, Mohan said Muslims
in countries such as India, Bangladesh and Pakistan wore kurtas and not
the "baju Melayu", which is a Malay traditional costume.
don't deny that Najib is a Muslim. And we have given all the respect to
him as a Muslim. But Muslims in other countries wear similar clothes, as
Islam does not impose any dress code as long as one is dressed
modestly," he said.
Bringing up such a trivial matter, Mohan
said, was yet another attempt to create discord among the different
races and religions in Malaysia.
Two years ago, the mufti of
Perak state, Harussani Zakaria, claimed Najib had "sacrificed his faith"
by attending the Thaipusam celebrations, and said he advised the prime
minister each year not to attend such events as they were an "idolatrous
Harussani later back-pedalled after Najib spoke to him personally.
Ethnic Indians comprise a little over seven percent of Malaysia's total population of nearly 30 million.