PETALING JAYA - MCA has opposed the Terengganu government's directive that shopping complexes in the state halt their business operations for two hours on Friday, saying the state should respect the diversity of faith and not implement a directive that ignores the feelings of the non-Muslim community.
"Operators and staff of shopping malls are adherents to their own religious beliefs and have to tend to their customers' needs.
"As these are commercial entities, the operators should retain the freedom to determine the lunch hours," the council said.
Starting Jan 1, shopping malls in Terengganu will close for two hours from 12.30pm on Friday to encourage youths to congregate at mosques for prayers instead of loitering at malls.
In Kuala Terengganu, closing shopping malls in the state during Friday prayers will affect others who wish to shop during that period, according to several leaders here.
Terengganu MCA chief Datuk Toh Chin Yaw said although it was noble of the state government to encourage Muslim youths to attend Friday prayers, this would inconvenience non-Muslim shoppers.
"It is good that the government is concerned about social and religious problems affecting youths and we understand this.
"However, closing malls will affect businesses operated by non-Muslims. Those who wish to go shopping during those hours will be affected.
"We are hoping that the state government will rethink the move.
"MCA has received a lot of feedback from the public and we are compiling them for the state government," said Toh, who added that he would meet Mentri Besar Datuk Ahmad Razif Abd Rahman to discuss the issue.
During the state assembly sitting on Tuesday, Ahmad Razif said the government would order shopping malls in the state to shut for two hours (12.30pm-2.30pm) on Fridays from January to encourage Muslim youths to go to the mosque and "not loiter about".
Toh said a better approach would be to educate youths and instil good values in them.
"Perhaps, there could be announcements at malls to inform shoppers that it is prayer time and encourage Muslim youths to go to the mosque.
"Shutting down the malls will probably not solve the problem," said Toh.
Terengganu Chinese Chamber of Commerce and Industry (TCCCI) vice-president Alex Lee said tourists would also find it inconvenient if malls were closed on Friday afternoons.
"Tourists come to do souvenir shopping during those hours. As most shops are already closed all day on Fridays, there will not be much to do then," said Lee.
Federation of Chinese Associations Malaysia (Hua Zong) president Tan Sri Pheng Yin Huah, in concurring, urged the state government to reconsider the decision saying it was "unfair" to non-Muslim operators in the malls.
"We do not oppose the decision to shut malls operated by Muslims as they have the right to decide on these matters.
"However, it is unfair to force non-Muslim operators to abide by this ruling," he said.