LETTER | Of late Malaysia has been debating on the khat issue.
For many years, there have been attempts to re-introduce Jawi and make it compulsory for non-Muslims. This is because Jawi is Arabic, and in Malaysia, anything Arabic is considered part of Islam.
That is why Catholics were not allowed to use the word Allah. I do not understand the double standard of the authorities when it comes to Jawi.
Now, the Prime Minister claims this was already brought up in 2012 under the BN government and no one had objected then.
Truly speaking, we the ordinary citizens were not aware of it.
I am now shocked to learn that in 2014 the Cabinet had agreed to this as a policy and with both MCA and MIC having a deputy minister each had agreed to formulate the syllabus to teach khat in Bahasa Melayu subject.
Further, I understand that the syllabus was agreed to be included in the curriculum of teaching the Malay language in Year 4 in all primary schools. Only the 'inner circle' of the BN must have known about this!
Mahathir's claim of opposing his PH government and not earlier is not fair because the rakyat just learnt of this.
Therefore Tun, please do not blame us for not agreeing to khat now.
Jawi was introduced in the early 1970s by the then Education Minister Abdul Rahman Yakob. After a serious protest by non-Muslims then prime minister Abdul Razak withdrew the order assuring that Jawi will not be forced but be taught in schools as a subject of choice only.
Hussein Onn even stated that Malaysia is a multi-racial and multi religious secular nation.
During Mahathir’s long first term leadership, he maintained Jawi as a subject of choice. The same can be said of Abdullah Badawi.
It was our opinion that Najib Abdul Razak maintained the same.
However, I am now shocked that his Cabinet, with MCA and MIC leaders with respective Deputy Ministers in the Education Ministry, had in 2016 formalised khat and finalised the curriculum the following year 2017!
It is said that six pages of khat lessons in the Bahasa Malaysia textbook was the agreed 2017 decision and the ministry officers have brought this burden in 2019 to the present Pakatan Harapan government.
It is sad that the new Harapan government accepted this without communicating with the stakeholders and people who elected them into power. This is the most disappointing.
It is in this context that we must understand the current controversy. Bahasa Malaysia is our national language. It is meant to be a source of unity. Our national schools are also meant to be a place to unite all Malaysians.
As it is, many students struggle to grasp the tough Bahasa Malaysia syllabus taught in our schools.
Even many Malay students find it a hurdle. Bahasa Malaysia is a compulsory subject that requires a mandatory pass.
So why then are we adding more stress to these young minds?
The priority should be to support them to be proficient in the national language, in the Rumi form so as to be able to read and write effectively for daily communication.
The next priority is to instil basic skills in English so that they are prepared to be competitive globally.
It must be considered that Rumi is also the accepted script for the national language of the largest Muslim nation in the world, Indonesia.
Singapore also regards Rumi as the official script of the Malay language, which is recognised as the national language.
I do not understand, therefore, why the Education Ministry is introducing something that causes so much disunity and tension within our nation.
Is it really so important to teach khat to all primary school students?
Why not defer this decision, and do a proper and thorough review of the curriculum where all races and religions are consulted, and we make national schools truly the unifying force they were meant to be?
A VAITHILINGAM is former president of Malaysia Hindu Sangam.
The views expressed here are those of the author/contributor and do not necessarily represent the views of Malaysiakini.