A letter issued by Malaysia’s education ministry describing the harvest festival Pongal as a “Hindu religious festival” has resulted in an uproar among members of the Muslim majority country, Straits Times has reported.
The education department in a letter on 13 January called Pongal a “celebration for Hindu worshippers", which resulted in a backlash from many who claimed that Pongal is a “Tamil harvest festival” and has nothing to do with religion.
Following the outrage, the education ministry has clarified that the letter was based on Islamic Development Department (Jakim) guidelines and was meant to assuage concerned Muslim parents with regards to their children celebrating it.
The ministry added that it did not wish to prevent Pongal celebrations at school and sought to inculcate unity among the school children. It quoted the Jakim syariah expert panel to state that it is okay for Muslims to acknowledge and wish their friends and neighbours a happy Pongal without acknowledging their religion.
This comes a few days after a controversy had erupted over a government school in Selangor being forced to remove some Chinese New Year decorations.
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