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Malaysia’s education ministry probes video showing children and teachers bearing mock firearms

Malaysia’s education ministry has ordered a thorough investigation into a viral video showing children and teachers at a school bearing mock firearms for an event that promotes solidarity with the Palestinians, the Bernama news agency reported.

Education minister Fadhlina Sidek said her ministry would take further action over the pictures and videos that have been circulating since Friday, after receiving a detailed report.

Ms Fadhlina was commenting on calls from different parties urging the education ministry to take disciplinary action against organisers displaying violence in schools during the Palestine Solidarity Week.

Her ministry earlier said the programme would “educate students about humane values that also include human rights and compassion”, and is aligned with the government’s stance to defend the rights and freedom of the Palestinians.

The programme will run from Oct 29 to Nov 3 according to a circular dated Oct 21 sent by the education ministry to administrators of public institutions, including vocational and matriculation colleges.

Some suggested activities include an official launch of the solidarity week during schools’ morning assemblies, fund-raisers for Palestinians and the playing of songs and videos that “tied in with humanitarian issues” in the war-stricken Gaza.

Israel has vowed to annihilate Hamas in Gaza after the Palestinian militant group launched a surprise cross-border attack in southern Israel on Oct 7 that killed around 1,400 people.

Israel has since begun its bombardment of Gaza where the death toll has climbed to 7,650, according to a report released on Saturday by the Palestinian Health Ministry.

Malaysia, a Muslim-majority country, is a strong supporter of the Palestinian cause.

One video shared on social media on Friday showed teachers parading before assembled students at an unidentified school. The grown-ups are seen carrying toy guns while wearing black-and-white chequered Palestinian keffiyeh, or scarves.

Students at other schools are also seen in photos sporting green bandanas printed with the words “Save Palestine” while also carrying replica weapons.

Ms Fadhlina said the ministry does not compromise on elements of radicalism, extremism, violence, replicas and weapons, which are strictly prohibited within school premises.

“Therefore, we request everyone, especially those in educational institutions, to fully adhere to the guidelines we have provided,” she said.

She added: “That’s why we organised Palestine Solidarity Week within a limited period...which allows us to control and monitor it. Any school found violating these guidelines will face appropriate action.”

Bernama reported that the education ministry confirmed that the event in the viral video was held outside the designated period of Palestine Solidarity Week and did not follow the guidelines set by the ministry.

On Friday, Malaysian Prime Minister Anwar Ibrahim called for better control of the solidarity programme.

“We discussed this in the Cabinet meeting. We encourage schools to do this (show solidarity) but we do not force them,” he said.

“We have to control it, so it won’t become a problem.”