M'sian food worker seen in viral TikTok video wearing cross & songkok fired, MPs allege religious discrimination

The worker was apparently fired before the viral video came out.

Sulaiman Daud | November 22, 2023, 01:28 PM



A Malaysian food preparation worker in a viral TikTok video who was wearing a songkok and a cross at the same time was fired.

However, news of his firing resulted in a backlash, with some Members of Parliament (MPs) claiming this represented religious discrimination.

What happened

The furore started from a viral TikTok video.

User @ahmadhunain_ went to Bukit Bintang, Kuala Lumpur to check out a trendy new restaurant, Mon Chinese Beef Roti Restaurant, that sells takeaway Chinese meat buns.

The stall, which has over 50 outlets in China, is the first one in Malaysia and is currently in the process of obtaining its halal certification.

@ahmadhunain_ Chinese beef roti bukit bintang. Berbaloi ke kalau sampai beratur panjang 👀 #foodreview #kebulor ♬ Charleston - Alexander Smith & Harry Greene & Mark Fabian & Richard Kimmings

While Ahmad Hunain was taking videos of the queues of customers and the staff members, viewers noticed an odd detail.

The staff workers were wearing songkoks, the traditional cap popular with Muslims in Southeast Asia.

However, one staff member was wearing a Christian cross around his neck.

This led to Malaysians questioning whether the stall was trying to "deceive" their customers by mandating all staff wear songkoks, regardless of their religion, New Straits Times (NST) reported.

According to the manager of the restaurant, Sofia, they did not "thoroughly check" the background of their employee.

She apologised to those who were offended after watching the video, and confirmed that the employee in question was fired.

NST said, quoting Harian Metro:

"He was terminated by the management before I even found out about the viral video, and I sincerely apologise for that mistake.

Frankly, I couldn't sleep well thinking about the issue because I was shocked when I found out that the video went viral so quickly."

Backlash for firing

But in a twist, the stall then came under fire from other Malaysians, who believed they were overreacting by firing the employee.

Free Malaysia Today reported that some commenters pointed out that the employee wearing a cross has no effect on the halal status of the food.

Hype Malaysia quoted others who said that the management could have asked the employee to "cover up" his cross, if it was an issue.

Issue raised by MPs

The issue has now reached the Malaysian parliament, with Member of Parliament M. Kulasegaran from the Democratic Action Party (DAP) urging the Human Resources Ministry to take action against the stall, as he believes this is a case of religious discrimination.

On Nov. 22, Kulasegaran, the former Minister for Human Resources, said the issue might become a "significant problem" if not addressed, and said he was worried that Hindu Malaysians might face similar problems in the future, with their tradition of anointing their foreheads with holy ash.

Another DAP MP, Kelvin Yii, said that the stall's actions were "highly discriminatory", illegal and a challenge to religious freedom in Malaysia, Malay Mail reported.

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Top image from Ahmad Hunain TikTok.