KUALA LUMPUR • Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Razak has spoken out against Muslim-only launderettes, saying that such exclusivity is wrong.
"I don't believe in exclusivity. Let there not be a launderette only for Muslims. I think that's wrong," Datuk Seri Najib said yesterday.
Speaking to about 1,000 people gathered at the Malaysia Chinese Youth Summit 2017 in Kuala Lumpur, the Prime Minister said he believed that Malaysians should, however, have a choice as long as it did not create a rift in the country's diverse society. "There should be choice. You don't want to go to a particular restaurant because you think it's not halal, it's your decision," he said.
"Muslims have their own set of beliefs but we cannot impose this on non-Muslims. As long as you don't disturb us we don't disturb you," he said, citing the example of a church and a mosque which are located next to each other in Miri, Sarawak.
Mr Najib said maintaining harmony and unity in multicultural and multi-religious Malaysia was a key priority for him and the Government. "As your shou xiang (prime minister), I will continue policies that are moderate and progressive. I believe in national unity and national harmony," he was quoted as saying in The Star daily.
Another newspaper, the New Straits Times, said Mr Najib's message echoed the firm stance taken recently by the Conference of Rulers, which condemned the moves to set up Muslim-only launderettes as divisive and tainting the reputation of Islam.
Responding to a question on his plans for Chinese schools, Mr Najib said the government treated vernacular schools equally with national schools and had spent RM2.5 billion (S$806 million) a year to fund the operating expenditure for Chinese schools.
He said the government had also agreed to set up new Chinese schools in areas where the Chinese population has increased, saying that the Minister of Education was discussing the matter with top officials of the Malaysian Chinese Association and Gerakan, the two Chinese-dominant parties in the ruling Barisan Nasional (BN) coalition.
"There will be an announcement to show that under the BN, we will promote more Chinese schools in areas where there is demand," said Mr Najib, who is also chairman of the coalition.
Yesterday, he attended a closed-door retreat with top BN leaders to prepare for the next general election, which must be called by August next year, although many observers expect it to be held sooner.
The retreat in Penang was believed to be the largest involving all top BN leaders, reported The Star.