PKR-linked preacher Wan Ji Wan Husin has rejected a proposal by veteran editor Zainuddin Maidin for the new Pakatan Harapan federal government to shut down tahfiz schools.
Wan Ji said that the issue of outdated practices, as claimed by the former minister, does not only lie with the tahfiz system, but it would depend on how such schools shape the minds of its students.
He was referring to a blog posting by Zainuddin in which the latter called on new de facto religious affairs minister Mujahid Yusof Rawa for the Islamic religious schools to be shut down as part of efforts to move Muslims away from jumud or outdated religious practices.
"The first step must be to close all tahfiz schools in the country, which do not give any hope to the future generations of Muslims," Zainuddin had stated in his blog.
Responding further, Wan Ji pointed out that even ordinary schools have produced students who are backwards in their mindset, while there were tahfiz students possessing insightful, forward-thinking mindset.
"The issue is about how their (students) mindset are shaped in the schools. If their teachers are exposed to creative thinking, then tahfiz schools can produce (more) forward-thinking students," said Wan Ji in a statement today.
While conceding that there were tahfiz graduates who may be more restricted in their mindset, he stated many parties had in the past proposed for the schools to move beyond teaching mere recitation and memorising of the Al-Quran.
Wan Ji (picture, below), who was formerly the Penang chief minister's office information officer, said Zainuddin should have instead pushed for tahfiz schools to encourage more creative thinking among their students, rather than a blanket proposal for its closure.
"Tahfiz school students should be exposed to other modern subjects and skills," said Wan Ji.
In an interview with Malaysiakini, Education Minister Maszlee Malik had also touched on the need to reform Islamic education in this country, beginning from tahfiz schools.
Among others, Maszlee said there was a need to introduce more moderate and progressive elements in such schools, as an effort to inculcate respect among various races and religion.