KUALA LUMPUR: Tourism and Culture Minister Datuk Seri Nazri Abdul Aziz has slammed the discriminatory policy of prohibiting frontliners in the hotel industry.
"It is rude and irresponsible. We have laws, and if it's true that this is an instruction, it means that they have gone against our Constitution," said Nazri.
He questioned why international hotel chains are operating in Malaysia if they bar staff from wearing headscarves.
"Is being naked better than wearing a headscarf when sitting in front of a counter," he questioned at a press conference at the Parliament lobby on Tuesday (Nov 14).
Nazri said that international hotel chains should respect Malaysian laws and culture, pointing out that 60 percent of Malaysians are Muslims.
"Come to our country, respect our laws. Sixty percent of Malaysians are Muslims, of course the headscarf is a norm here," said Nazri.
"We know that big hotel chains come from countries like the United States or United Kingdom, which are countries that emphasise human rights," he added.
Nazri pointed out that Malaysia ranked 12th in the world in attracting tourists, and said that international hotel chains that were unwilling to conform to the country's values were not welcomed.
"If hotel chains want to operate here, they must follow our ways. Otherwise, there are other hotels to fill that gap, such as local hotels," he added.
He added that the Tourism Ministry does not have the power to revoke the licenses of hotels involved in discriminatory practices, as this falls under the purview of the Urban Wellbeing, Housing and Local Government Ministry (KPKT).
"So, the KPKT must be strict and not allow such companies to operate here," said Nazri.
On Nov 6, the Union Network International-Malaysia Labour Centre (UNI-MLC) said in a statement that it had received numerous complaints from female hotel employees saying that their management does not allow them to wear a headscarf to work.
On Nov 11, Malaysia Hotels Association (MAH) told The Star that this uniform policy has been practiced in international hotel chains for a long time.
MAH chairman Samuel Cheah Swee Hee said that there are many other employment opportunities for Muslim employees including working in the backhouse or choosing to work with one of the many hotels that incorporate the headscarf in its uniform.
"The problem is everyone wants to join the 5-star global hotel brand, but they do not want to follow the uniform policy that is their worldwide standard," Cheah added.