KUALA LUMPUR: The Education Ministry is investigating claims that Christian students from the Labuan Matriculation College were told to conduct their prayers under a tree.
Second Education Minister Datuk Seri Idris Jusoh said that Deputy Education Minister Datuk Mary Yap is handling the issue on behalf of the ministry.
Yap reportedly told an East Malaysian independent newspaper that the allegations were serious and that college officers had been instructed to investigate the matter.
However, Idris said that these "minor" incidents do not represent what the country stands for.
"These claims are serious, but we need to remember that in our country, especially in schools, there is a budaya kasih sayang (culture of love).
"These incidents have happened, but they do not represent our country nor our culture," he said.
Idris also urged the media to be fair in its reports as well as to highlight issues that promote racial unity.
"Incidents such as this one are isolated, but when you keep highlighting it, it is as though there is no unity in our country.
“In the papers, you won't read about how people of all races get along well.
"If we don't shift our focus back to what makes our country and its people great, we might forget to be thankful for what Malaysia has achieved," he said, after the launch of the National Lifelong Learning Seminar at Dewan Tun Hussein Onn, Putra World Trade Centre (PWTC) here on Monday.
On Saturday, it was reported that several students at the matriculation college in Sabah were "forced" to pray in an open area under a tree, as they were not allowed to use any facility or rooms inside the college for prayers.
It was also reported that non-Muslim students who wanted to take part in the Students' Parliament were allegedly told to wear songkok or, in the case of female students, tudung (headscarves).
Sabah state Tourism, Culture and Environment Minister Datuk Masidi Manjun said investigations are being being carried out into the claims.