There is no religious significance in the Tamil harvest festival of Ponggal, said Human Resources Minister M Kulasegaran.
He said this in response to a purported Education Ministry circular stating that Ponggal is haram for Muslims.
Kula said he would bring the matter up at tomorrow’s cabinet meeting.
“It is incorrect to label the festival a religious one, as it has no religious significance.
“Ponggal aims to foster unity among Tamils for the preservation of culture and literature.
“It also aims to uplift the community and their future generations,” he said in a statement today.
It is believed that the purported circular was supposedly penned by Education Ministry deputy director-general Adzman Talib.
Attempts by Malaysiakini to get a comment or clarification from the ministry have been futile.
In the circular, which has gone viral on social media platforms, Adzman purportedly said Ponggal was haram for Muslims and asked state Education directors to convey this to all state Education departments, Education district offices, principals and headmasters.
He said this was based on the Department of Islamic Development Malaysia's (Jakim) position on the celebration.
"It is informed that Jakim's 100th Syariah experts panel meeting which convened on April 8 and 9, last year, had decided on the ruling (hukum) on Ponggal festival for Muslims.
"Ponggal is a celebration for Hindus. Therefore, Jakim decided that it is haram for Muslims to participate in the festival, particularly in the practice of cooking rice with milk," he said in the circular dated yesterday.
He also shared Jakim's recommendations if Muslims had no choice but to attend such an event.
They include the following:
1) Should not wear any special clothing that has religious symbolism such as the robes of a Hindu priest.
2) Should not use any tools that have religious symbolism of other religions such as wearing necklaces, flower garlands or make religious marks on the forehead.
3) Should not be involved in rituals in any form.
4) Should not enter a house of worship where a ritual is ongoing.
5) Should not hurl abuses to the gods of other religions and can convey greeting to friends and neighbours but with no intention of sidelining Islam.
'Attempt to embarrass Dr M?'
Penang Deputy Chief Minister II P Ramasamy, in an immediate response, questioned if there were those within the Education Ministry trying to embarrass Prime Minister Dr Mahathir Mohamad.
This is after Mahathir took over as acting education minister following the resignation of Maszlee Malik.
Ramasamy questioned why Jakim's ruling was being circulated to schools.
"Why are they sending this to schools? Is the 'deep state' still active?
"Are they attempting to embarrass the acting Education Minister Dr Mahathir Mohamad? This person should resign," he said.
Ramasamy said many other communities have similar harvest celebrations like Ponggal.
"The cooking of rice in earthen pots with milk and sugar symbolises a successful harvest," he said.