Will government be draconian with dress code?

Malaysia Airlines stewardesses in their uniforms. (Bernama pic)

PETALING JAYA: The man who okayed the uniforms currently worn by Malaysia Airlines staff has voiced doubt that the government will compel employers to accept a dress code it is drawing up without first listening to their views.

Abdul Aziz Abdul Rahman.

Abdul Aziz Abdul Rahman, who was CEO of Malaysian Airline System (MAS) from 1982 to 1992, told FMT he would be against such a draconian imposition but added that he believed Putrajaya would yield to good sense.

He described the Pakatan Harapan administration as a “reasonable” government.

“We need to see the guidelines first,” he said. “If there are any issues, I’m sure they can be discussed with the government.”

He was commenting on a recent announcement that the government was preparing a set of shariah-compliant dress guidelines for the private sector.

Minister in the Prime Minister’s Department Mujahid Yusof Rawa has been quoted as saying the hotel and airline businesses were among the sectors targeted and that the purpose of the guidelines was to prevent discrimination of Muslim women over their choice of clothing.

Abdul Aziz disclosed that he was the person responsible for the design of uniforms still used today by Malaysia Airlines employees. MAS became Malaysia Airlines in 2015.

“I’ve been a practising Muslim since I was young,” he said. “I wouldn’t break any Islamic rules.

“At the same time, we have to be reasonable and understand we live in a competitive world. So while I agree that uniforms must be decent, this doesn’t mean we must wear robes or cover ourselves from head to toe.”

The Malaysian Employers Federation, which represents more than 5,000 companies, said it hoped the government would consult employers in drawing up any code of conduct they would have to abide by.

“It’s good for employers to accommodate the needs of their employees, but this shouldn’t be binding since it would be a code and not a law,” MEF executive director Shamsuddin Bardan said.

“Also, female Muslim employees should be given the choice of whether to adhere to the code.”

Malaysian Association of Hotels president Cheah Swee Hee and Association of Hotel Employers president Christopher Raj said their groups had no objection to any dress code. They added that hotel employees were not prevented from wearing the headscarf.

However, Cheah said any employee opting to wear the headscarf must choose a colour approved by her hotel.

Various rights groups and individual activists have criticised the government’s move since Mujahid announced it.

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