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Saddiq courts flak after dismissing Form 1 student's 'hair petition'
Published:  Aug 30, 2019 2:07 AM
Updated: 2:07 AM

Youth and Sports Minister Syed Saddiq Syed Abdul Rahman (photo) has courted flak after he dismissed a Form 1 student's online petition to allow schoolboys to keep long hair.

Syed Saddiq in a tweet last night said the student, Darrell James, should focus on his studies instead.

"Little brother, even I at 26-years-old still get scolded by (Prime Minister) Dr Mahathir Mohamad if I have long hair.

"Just focus on your studies. Study well, and become someone who brings glory to the country.

"When you're successful, you can have hair like (reggae icon) Bob Marley and people will still like you," the minister said.

His response, however, was not well received by all.

Youth activist and co-founder of the Undi18 movement Nur Qyira Yusri, said Syed Saddiq's response was "absolutely disappointing".

"Undi18 was also a mere petition online. Students deserve a voice and we need to hear them. His argument isn’t even superficial and it’s rather well thought out.

"Sure, it may not be a life or death issue (length of hair) but a way forward is to acknowledge their persistence and critical thinking skills.

"In a system where they are taught not to question, as a minister what you do not do is brush them off," she said.

Qyira said that when Undi18 was first launched in 2016, no politician took note of it until Syed Saddiq supported it and gave it traction.

This had led to Parliament amending the Federal Constitution in July, lowering the voting age from 21 to 18.

Other social media users voiced similar sentiments as Qyira, saying that James' petition was part of democracy and showed critical thinking.

Meanwhile, women's rights activist Juana Jaffar said the petition also showed how far democracy had come in Malaysia, as 20 years ago no student would dare to initiate such a petition and put their name on it.

James' petition, addressed to Mahathir, has gained over 10,000 signatures since it was started two months ago.

In it, the 13-year-old argues that length of hair was outdated, unpractical, and a form of gender discrimination.

"The rules should be scrapped. The Education Ministry should instead focus on improving the educational environment for students instead of enforcing trivial, outdated and useless rules," he argued.

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