SUNGAI PETANI - A primary school teacher in the Malaysian state of Kedah has caused an uproar for allegedly telling non-Muslim students to drink their own urine if they were thirsty during the Muslim fasting month of Ramadan.
A complaint letter addressed to the Kedah state education director alleged that the Sungai Petani primary school's senior assistant told non-Muslim students they could only drink water in the school toilets and not in the classroom during the fasting month.
However, he also reportedly went further and said that those without water could drink from the tap or consume their own urine. The complaint letter has since gone viral online.
The teacher - who is in charge of student affairs and believed to be in his 50s - was said to have made the remarks during an assembly on Sunday.
The remarks angered many parents, who went to the school to demand an explanation yesterday morning.
At least 30 parents have lodged reports with the police and Kedah Education Department over the matter.
One of them, Mr Jaya Sharma Gopal K.R., said he could not accept teachers making insensitive remarks. He initially doubted the authenticity of the letter, but believed it when two other schoolteachers corroborated the incident.
"How could he ask students to drink their own urine? Is this appropriate?" said the 37-year-old businessman who went down to the school.
Following the complaints, the Education Ministry has directed its Kedah Education Department to investigate the incident, said deputy minister P. Kamalanathan.
"The teacher will be dealt with seriously for breaching the ministry's policy if the complaint is true," he said in a post on his Facebook page.
He said the ministry had no such policy against non-Muslim students consuming water during Ramadan. "The allegations … are definitely not the policy of the ministry," he said.
Meanwhile, a Kedah exco member has said the statement was meant as a joke.
State Education, Transportation and Public Works Committee chairman Tajul Urus Mat Zain said the senior assistant's speech was misconstrued.
"He actually said it in a berseloroh (joking) tone. "What he said was "jangan minum air kencing kamu pula" (don't you instead drink your own urine), which was misinterpreted by the pupils," Datuk Tajul told reporters at his office yesterday afternoon.
THE STAR/ASIA NEWS NETWORK