Malaysian Christian students told to wear headscarves and sent outside to pray

Malaysia's Education Ministry is investigating claims that Christian students had to pray outside, as they were not allowed to use any of the rooms inside the college.

It was reported on Saturday that students at the Labuan Matriculation College, Sabah, were 'forced' to pray under a tree and not inside the college.

Daily Express, a regional newspaper, also reported that any non-Muslim students who wanted to participate in the students' parliament would have to wear head coverings – a songkok (traditional cap worn by Muslim men) and tudung (headscarves) for women.

Parents were reported saying: "The poor students are forced to say their prayers under the sun or tree in the compound. Even then, the security guard would allegedly harass them [students] to hurry up, forcing them to stop even before they can finish praying.

"This is ridiculous, especially when freedom of worship is guaranteed in the Federal Constitution and the nation's leaders keep reiterating this."

Second Education Minister Datuk Seri Idris Jusoh told The Star: "These claims are serious, but we need to remember that in our country, especially in schools, there is a budaya kasih sayang [culture of love].

"These incidents have happened, but they do not represent our country nor our culture," he said.

This is not the first time there have been concerns about religious liberties at the college. In July 2012, there were reports that several Christian students had being pressured to convert to another faith.