Cutting through the khat kerfuffle

Eric Loo

Modified 22 Aug 2019, 10:43 pm

COMMENT | The beauty of Arabic calligraphy that adorns the grand mosques in Dubai and Delhi, in Agra and Surakarta, in Kuching and Kuala Lumpur, fascinates me. But I know little about the history of khat, even though they are emblazoned on our coat of arms and printed on the ringgit notes.

Little knowledge does cause confusion – and protests - with sensitive controversies such as the ongoing khat kerfuffle. Hence, I researched the different interpretations of the ‘problem’, starting with KiniGuide’s comprehensive explanation.

My premise is simple. The educational benefits of children learning khat, or any new language and script art, far outweigh the imagined fear of the adults in losing their non-Malay heritage, their language, their identity, and so forth.

Reactions to the khat issue are unsurprisingly fractious. Because the teaching of khat is seen as a racially driven ideological issue, an Islamic imposition, the reactions are likewise racial, ideological and polarised. We shouldn’t be surprised at the resultant politics given the racialised environment we live in today...

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