Negri PAS under fire for segregating sexes at Raya open house

(The Star) – Negri Sembilan PAS has come under fire from several quarters here for segregating men and women at their Hari Raya open house held at Dataran Senawang on Saturday, who said that the move would only derail efforts to strengthen national unity.

They felt that the rule imposed by the Islamist party was inconsistent with the open house spirit, which, among others, allowed Malaysians from all walks of life to mix and mingle freely.

State MCA political and strategy bureau head Datuk Lee Yuen Fong said PAS’ action only caused uneasiness among Malaysians.

“Why do you need to segregate when it is an open house and held in an open area? This is a preview of what PAS will do if it ever gains power,” he said.

Lee said that in a multi-racial and multi-religious country like Malaysia, it was important for people to mix with one another as it would help promote understanding.

“If you are not encouraged to mix at such events, then where are you supposed to know more about the people of other faiths who can be your neighbours or your colleagues?” he asked.

PAS state commissioner Taufek Abdul Ghani said the move was to allow its guests, particularly women, to be comfortable.

“I don’t know why is this an issue as we have been doing this for years,” he said, adding that the rule was similar to KTM Bhd‘s rule to have special coaches for women commuters.

Taufek said the rule, which required men and women to sit and queue up separately for food, was not mandatory.

Negri Sembilan Buddhism, Christianity, Hinduism, Sikhism and Taoism council chairman Edward Lim said that having such a rule would not help foster unity.

“We can understand if the rule is introduced to ensure women, girls and children get their food as there is always a scramble at such events,” he said.

National MIC information chief Datuk V.S. Mogan described the segregation as ridiculous.

“It mocks the open house concept and doesn’t help in promoting unity,” he said.

Mogan, who is an exco member, said it was acceptable if PAS had implemented the rule at a closed-door event.

Meanwhile, state opposition leader Anthony Loke defended PAS on the issue.

“I was seated on the same table with Mohamed Sabu (PAS deputy president) and his wife and no one told me anything.

“Our detractors should know that such things are common at PAS-organised events,” he said.