Nothing wrong with having separate canteens for Muslim students, says Kota Melaka MP

MELAKA: Missionary and Chinese secondary schools in the state have separate canteens serving purely halal food out of respect for Muslim students, and there is nothing wrong with this, says MP for Kota Melaka Khoo Poay Tiong (pic).

He said halal sections were made available some 15 years ago to cater to the rising number of Muslims students in missionary schools, purely to give an option for those students.

"There are about five missionary schools in the historic city with halal sections, and parents were fine with their existence.

"One Chinese secondary school in my constituency also allocates a caterer for Muslim students and the school is fine with it," he said when interviewed here on Sunday (Nov 25).

Khoo said these canteens could be patronised by non-Muslims too and there were no restrictions.

"We seem to be turning everything into a racial rhetoric and I hope we move on and respect the religious obligations of other communities.

"The existence of the separate canteens had never segregated the students, the ex-students, both Muslims and non-Muslims, maintain their brotherhood, that's the strength of Malaysians," he said in response to a report on a news portal on the existence of dual canteens at missionary schools here.

Khoo said it's more crucial now to focus on economic growth of the state without wasting time on adverse issues being brought up again after a few decades.

"I was asked to comment on the canteen issue seven years ago.

"I maintained the same stand as it's right for Muslims to consume halal items and parents or the school managements have no issues," he said.

Melaka Action Group for Parents in Education (Magpie) chairman Mak Chee Kin said separate canteens have been there for some time and there have been no complaints.

He said dual canteens also elicit healthy competition between operators, where students could enjoy cheaper prices and better quality food.

"The only concern of Magpie is on the attitude of some teachers who often try to influence the minds of students with bigoted ideologies.

"Anyway, we hope the Education Ministry will also look into the need for vegetarian sections at schools," he said, adding that the dual canteens were encouraged under the Barisan Nasional government.

Melaka Education Department director Abu Bakar Shaari said the dual canteens have been there for some time and it was the schools' prerogative to decide whether to provide separate canteens.