PETALING JAYA: Decisions regarding the adoption of shariah-compliant practices in the aviation industry should be made by individual airlines, says Ismail Nasaruddin, the president of the National Union of Flight Attendants Malaysia (Nufam).
Ismail said airlines should not face pressure to change. “There is no issue in adopting shariah compliance if an airline wants to change its old model of business. You cannot put pressure on airlines if they don’t want to change,” Ismail told FMT.
Setiu MP Shaharizukirnain Abdul Kadir from PAS had proposed a government policy to require pre-departure prayers on all commercial flights, as part of a shariah-compliant policy for airlines.
Ismail said the transport ministry could impose shariah compliance on government-owned airlines but he questioned its practicality for private airlines.
“Take AirAsia for instance. They began using red skirts for their uniforms. Is it feasible to expect them to invest an additional RM20 million in new uniforms? We need to be realistic about these things,” he added.
Ismail called for the government to give priority to better working conditions and salaries of cabin crew before implementing changes like shariah compliance in the aviation industry.
“The opposition MP should be (actually) fighting for this cause,” said Ismail. “You expect them to comply with various demands, but ultimately, their working standards are not enhanced.”
Nigel Wong, the president of the Malaysian Association of Tour and Travel Agents (Matta), said that imposing an excessive number of policies on airlines could lead to a shift in how tourists perceive Malaysia.
“Some of the things recommended by the MP in terms of choice of uniform are not reasonable requests.
Wong argued against the government imposing non-essential practices on the private sector to preserve Malaysia’s image of a moderate Muslim country. “The branding of Malaysia may undergo significant change if (shariah-compliance) is implemented on our national carriers,” he said.
Wong said Malaysia is known as a “moderate Muslim country” and argued against the government imposing non-essential practices on the private sector to preserve this image.
“The branding of Malaysia may undergo significant change if this is implemented on our national carriers,” Wong said.
In recent years, MPs of the Islamic party have been vocal about shariah compliance in commercial aviation.
In 2018, Rantau Panjang MP Siti Zailah Yusoff raised concerns about Muslim female flight attendants being forced to remove their headscarves. In 2020, when she became a deputy minister, she pushed for a shariah-compliant dress code for flight attendants.
In 2021, Abdul Latiff Abdul Rahman, another PAS MP, called for the ministry’s support for Muslim flight attendants who had to wear shariah-compliant uniforms in order to earn a living.