Nazri slams hotels for prohibiting staff from wearing hijab

KUALA LUMPUR: Tourism and Culture Minister Datuk Seri Nazri Aziz has lashed out at international hotel chains here that are prohibiting their Muslim frontline staff from wearing hijabs, calling them "kurang ajar" (imprudent).

He said the action showed the establishments were irresponsible and lack respect for the country's culture and that it was against the Federal Constitution.

"This (hijab ban) is a form of discrimination. In the Constitution, it is clear that there must not be any form of discrimination, be it against a religion, race, language or other (subjects).

"If it is true that this hijab ban is part of their standard operating procedure (SOP), then they are kurang ajar. Anyone who defends these SOPs are also kurang ajar, especially if they are Malaysians," he said after officiating at the pre-launch of the 3rd KL International Craft Festival at the Parliament building today.

Nazri's statement came after a number of organisations, including the Malaysian Employers Federation (MEF), highlighted that Muslim employees in hotels were being told to remove their hijabs when working in frontline positions.

On Saturday, the Malaysian Association of Hotels (MAH) defended the policy, saying it is international practice and part of SOP for the hotels concerned, and is not meant to be discriminatory.

Nazri said the right thing for the association to do was to protest against the hotel companies by telling them that Muslims made up the majority of the Malaysian population.

"Why are they (hotels) coming here and making conditions not to allow headscarves? What's wrong? Is it better then to be naked than to wear a headscarf on the front desk?"

Nazri added that he would not think international companies from countries that valued equality and human rights in their respective constitutions would ban staff from covering their heads.

MAH could not be reached for comment at press time.

In a statement, DAP national deputy chairman Gobind Singh Deo said if there was a need for a court ruling on the matter, he was willing to offer legal assistance to those affected and challenge the legality of such policies.