PETALING JAYA: The “Muslims-only laundrette” issue has brought to the fore the need for the country to have an equality law or an Anti-Discrimination Act, says Teo Nie Ching.
The Kulai MP said only such a law will help check religious extremism, gender discrimination and all types of unfair practices that have taken place in the country.
Referring to the order by the Sultan of Johor, Sultan Ibrahim Sultan Iskandar, for the Muslim-only launderette in Muar to stop its controversial policy or risk being shut down, Teo said it is not a permanent solution.
“Johoreans are lucky to have His Majesty to speak up for progressiveness and modernism, but what if this happens in other states in Malaysia?
“Can we be assured that this controversy will end in the same manner?
“Especially when the Johor mufti Mohd Tahrir Samsudin had praised the laundrette’s action as ‘beautiful’?” she asked.
Teo also cited Johor’s executive councillor for religion, Abd Mutalip Abd Rahim, who had said that the laundrette was a business and it was up to the operator to run it in the way he wished, as there are no local authority regulations barring the practice.
“Therefore it seems that, without the intervention of His Majesty, the state government would continue to allow the launderette to operate.
“This makes it crucial for us to have an equality law or Anti-Discrimination Act. This is because the principle of equality is enshrined in our Federal Constitution.
“Article 8 of the Federal Constitution says that all persons are equal before the law and entitled to the equal protection of the law and except as expressly authorised by this Constitution, there shall be no discrimination against citizens on the ground only of religion, race, descent, place of birth or gender,” she said.
Teo, who is DAP assistant national publicity secretary, believes that only a proper equality law or Anti-Discrimination Act will provide a wider range of remedies for discrimination and lead to greater national consistency in anti-discrimination protections.
“We need such a law to provide an important federal symbolic statement about the unacceptable nature of any type of discrimination.
“This would contribute to ensuring that all persons are treated with dignity and respect regardless of their religion, race, descent, place of birth or gender,” Teo said.
She recommended a bi-partisan committee be formed in parliament, when it convenes next month, to conduct a series of town hall meetings to discuss the content of such a bill.
“It is sad that while we are celebrating the 60th Merdeka Day, our beloved nation is more divided than any time before.”
It was reported earlier this week that a laundrette had placed a “Muslims only” sign at the entrance stating it only accepted Muslim customers on the ground of preserving “purity”.
The 40-year-old operator told a Chinese newspaper that he introduced the restriction to fulfill his obligation as a Muslim.