New education adviser wards off attacks over old comment on Muslim prayers

Ida Lim
Datin Noor Azimah Abdul Rahim is under criticism online over a previous remark on mandatory Muslim prayers in schools. — Picture via Facebook/Dr Maszlee Malik

KUALA LUMPUR, Aug 19 — Datin Noor Azimah Abdul Rahim has defended herself against fierce criticism online over a previous remark on mandatory Muslim prayers in schools now used to question her appointment to the National Education Advisory Council.

The chairman of the education lobby Parent Action Group for Education Malaysia (PAGE) said critics were mistaken in their belief that her organisation was opposed to Muslims’ congregational prayers (solat berjemaah) in schools.

Noor Azimah, whose appointment was announced by the education minister on August 16, noted that PAGE’s position was that simply such prayers should not be mandatory.

“We wish to reiterate that PAGE is in full support of congregational prayer (solat berjemaah).

“Unlike what was reported in the media, we did not object to the proposal for congregational prayer (solat berjemaah) to be conducted in schools,” she said in a brief statement today.

She stressed that her group only wanted this to be optional due to practical considerations.

Noor Azimah argued that such events placed undue demands on parents’ time and resources, adding that the prayers could either be done individually or in smaller congregations.

“We believe that there was an element of sensationalisation of our statement by certain media which was subsequently misunderstood by our critics,” she added.

The statement came after Facebook users left over 390 mostly negative comments on an August 17 post on Education Minister Maszlee Malik’s official Facebook page. The post announced Noor Azimah’s appointment to the advisory council.

Many critical users focused solely on her alleged objection or obstruction to having Islamic prayers in schools, but mostly without providing basis for their claim aside.

Their dissatisfaction may have been based on Noor Azimah’s comments as reported on December 2, 2017, in response to a Kuantan district education officer’s reported instruction for all schools in the district to hold a mass prayer within the school compound before students leave for home.

The December 2 news report carried Noor Azimah’s views that prayers were good but can be done in private, but said Islamic practices were never meant to be imposed on others and that principals should ensure non-Malays in the multiracial national schools do not feel alienated.

PAGE had also on December 6, 2017 already clarified Noor Azimah’s comments.

Many of those who left Facebook comments in the past few days also protested her appointment by claiming that she was a “liberal”, while a few questioned her qualifications.

According to the announcement, however, Noor Azimah who was once selected as one of business weekly The Edge’s Ten Inspiring Malaysians in 2013 has been invited on multiple occasions to provide her views in programmes with the education ministry and ministry of science, technology and innovation.

Noor Azimah is also listed as a member of the education committee in government think-tank Academy of Sciences Malaysia.

Noor Azimah is one of the seven that were appointed to the National Education Advisory Council.

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