Recently, a public school in Selangor was threatened by a lawyer for its Chinese New Year (CNY) decorations
The lawyer, Mohd Khairul Azam Abdul Aziz, who is also the vice president of Parti Bumiputera Perkasa Malaysia (PUTRA) threatened to file a police report against SMK Pusat Bandar Puchong 1 earlier this week.
In a letter written to the school's principal Rohani Mohd Nor and shared on his Twitter account under the moniker, Buzze Azam, the lawyer accused that the decorations were "hurting their eyes" and "against the Constitution".
Mohd Khairul claimed that his party received complaints from parents saying they felt uneasy with the CNY decorations in the school
"Some parents say the school looks like a Chinese-owned store with religious elements on display that are other than Islam," he said.
"This is distressing for the Muslim students and is also against Article 3(1) of the Federal Constitution," he claimed, adding that he attached pictures of the decorations that was causing the said distress.
According to Malay Mail, Article 3(1) states that "Islam is the religion of the Federation; but other religions may be practised in peace and harmony in any part of the Federation".
He also claimed that for allowing these decorations to be put up, the principal was violating another law
"Your actions in allowing these excessive decorations for celebrating a Chinese religious festival in a public school is also against Article 12(3) of the Federal Constitution which states 'no person shall be required to receive instruction in or to take part in any ceremony or act of worship of a religion other than his own'," he warned.
"Your actions are also a method of spreading the teachings of other religions among the Muslim students which is against Article 11(4) of the Federal Constitution."
According to Today Online, Article 11(4) restricts the propagation of any religious doctrine or belief among persons professing the religion of Islam.
He then gave the principal three days to take down the Chinese decorations that he deemed were "religious".
According to Mohd Khairul, the principal of the school has since promised to take down the decorations
Taking again to Twitter, he said that matters were settled with the school.
"The school principal has given her explanation and we understand that the decorations will slowly be taken down," he tweeted yesterday, 7 January.
He also attached a picture of the reply that the principal allegedly wrote, "The decorations that went up were not ran by me in the first place. I have given them a warning and the ones involved have promised to take the decorations down."
Since the incident, Malaysian leaders have highlighted that CNY is not a religious celebration, nor did the decorations actually contain any religious elements
Malay Mail also pointed out that Chinese New Year is also celebrated by Muslims in the Chinese community.
In response to the debacle, the Foreign Affairs Minister, Datuk Saifuddin Abdullah, tweeted to remind Malaysians, "CNY has nothing to do with religion. We have celebrated together for decades. This tradition must continue."
"Among Malaysia's strengths is its people - diverse in race, culture, and religion, living in peace and harmony. This needs to be strengthened in the spirit of peaceful coexistence."
According to Free Malaysia Today, Bukit Gelugor Member of Parliament (MP) Ramkarpal Singh also urged the school principal not to succumb to pressure from the Malay party.
"Going by PUTRA's twisted logic, all CNY decorations across the country would have to be taken down for purportedly being unconstitutional," he added.
Many Malaysians also did not share the sentiments of Mohd Khairul, with many replying to his original tweet that he was only trying to stir up a racial issue
"Do you like looking for a fight so much with other races?" wondered this Twitter user.
"You just can't let us Malaysians live in peace, that you made CNY decorations an issue. Instead of trying to fix a broken relationship, you keep trying to worsen the situation."
"Parents who are scared of the cross symbol, jawi writing, or even CNY should be boiled in a big pot like boiled eggs," replied this netizen sarcastically.
While this user asked the lawyer to read up and open his mind.
"Chinese New Year is a cultural celebration, brother. Not a religious one. It's a local custom. I'm not the only one who says so, a mufti said so too."
In December, the lawyer also went to the High Court to challenge the constitutionality of vernacular schools: