Articles, Opinions & Views: Do we need religion in our education system? - By Commander S THAYAPARAN (Retired) Royal Malaysian Navy

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In A Foxhole
“When you're left wounded on

Afganistan's plains and

the women come out to cut up what remains,

Just roll to your rifle

and blow out your brains,

And go to your God like a soldier”

“We are not retreating. We are advancing in another direction.”

“It is fatal to enter any war without the will to win it.”

“Old soldiers never die; they just fade away.

“The soldier, above all other people, prays for peace,

for he must suffer and be the deepest wounds and scars of war.”

“May God have mercy upon my enemies, because I won't .”
“The object of war is not to die for your country but to make the other bastard die for his.

“Nobody ever defended anything successfully, there is only attack and attack and attack some more.

“Fixed fortifications are a monument to the stupidity of man."
“It is foolish and wrong to mourn the men who died.
Rather we should thank God that such men lived.

The Soldier stood and faced God

Which must always come to pass

He hoped his shoes were shining

Just as bright as his brass

"Step forward you Soldier,

How shall I deal with you?

Have you always turned the other cheek?

To My Church have you been true?"

"No, Lord, I guess I ain't

Because those of us who carry guns

Can't always be a saint."

I've had to work on Sundays

And at times my talk was tough,

And sometimes I've been violent,

Because the world is awfully rough.

But, I never took a penny

That wasn't mine to keep.

Though I worked a lot of overtime

When the bills got just too steep,

The Soldier squared his shoulders and said

And I never passed a cry for help

Though at times I shook with fear,

And sometimes, God forgive me,

I've wept unmanly tears.

I know I don't deserve a place

Among the people here.

They never wanted me around

Except to calm their fears.

If you've a place for me here,

Lord, It needn't be so grand,

I never expected or had too much,

But if you don't, I'll understand."

There was silence all around the throne

Where the saints had often trod

As the Soldier waited quietly,

For the judgment of his God.

"Step forward now, you Soldier,

You've borne your burden well.

Walk peacefully on Heaven's streets,

You've done your time in Hell."

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Do we need religion in our education system? - By Commander S THAYAPARAN (Retired) Royal Malaysian Navy
Wednesday, May 23, 2018
Malaysiakini : COMMENT | Academic types have offered a plethora of reforms, but I’m a simple man.
“Children must be taught how to think, not what to think.” ― Margaret Mead, cultural anthropologist

COMMENT | Let us test this era of glasnost some claim we are living in. This is a very specific question I am posing. Considering the credentials of our newly minted education minister, I am asking if the education system in our country needs a specific religion not any religion but a specific religion which I have argued has been weaponised in this country and elsewhere.
This is not a provocative question considering how the Pakatan Harapan opposition and now government has contextualised Islam in their narrative. Remember DAP leader Lim Kit Siang has said that DAP supports the Islamisation process if done constitutionally. The "true Muslim meme" as propagated by the Harapan faithful was merely a reaction to the state-sponsored Islam of Umno and the regressive Islam of PAS.
Academic types have offered a plethora of reforms for our education system but I am a simple man. Colonialism left us with a pretty decent education system before religious and racial politics infected the system. So to me, it is going back to basics with modulations that take into account contemporary realities that changing geopolitical landscapes and economic markets necessitate.
Islamists in this country love to go about how the Empire left us with a “Christian” education system and what was needed for Malaysia – which they defined solely on a majoritarian view - is Islam and a revision of history texts to fit the narratives of the dominant community and the agendas of the indoctrination of the state.
When people talk of vernacular schools which over the years has become a reaction to the racialisation and Islamisation of our public schools, all I can say is, that a progressive government should cease funding these types of schools. They were part of the barter system when it comes to racial politics anyway. At the same time, the government should also cease funding religious schools, however one defines them. If communities want such schools, it should be allowed with appropriate regulation and on their own dime.
When newly minted education minister said this - “Being religious is not a crime, you can’t punish people for being religious or for not being religious” – in a Malaysiakini interview, I call that horse manure. This was a slip-up, not something that burnishes the "intellectual" credentials of an education minister.
In Malaysia, you can punish people for not being religious with all the fatwas, laws and other restrictions placed on Muslims when it comes to their faith. The syariah legal system, when it comes to the irreligiousness of Muslims, is the most overt form of sanctions but when you have the death penalty for apostasy, the statement by our education minister is even more bizarre.
And do not get me started on non-Muslims. How they practice their faith is limited to what is acceptable to the sensitivities of the Muslim community, hence any claim that there are no sanctions, either legal or communal, when it comes to how religious someone is in this country is total horse manure.
All those pablum from our new education minister are echoes from personalities of the previous administration. Should we buy it simply because it comes from a Harapan official? Unless there are concrete steps to rectify the education system, all these homages to inclusion and racial and religious tolerance is merely components of the Kool-Aid.
When some folks say let us give our new education minister a chance despite what he may have said or done before, that is a coherent argument. After all, a certain segment of the current regime is made up of people who have engaged in racist, bigoted, fascist and misogynistic behaviour before but their sins were washed away when they “saved” Malaysia. Our education minister is not the most egregious offender on that score.
However, while DAP’s Ong Kian Ming attempts to make something out of Maszlee Malik’s “impressive CV”, the reality is that the only credentials which are important is the one Maszlee uses to dissect the society his lives. In other words, his “Islamic” credentials are what matter. It is also a very “BN” in the way how Harapan politicians are jumping to defend nomination choices, which is exactly the way how the former regime operated when it came to Muslims politicians and hot-button issues. They trotted out their non-Muslim cohorts to defend choices that raised public skepticism.
Why Maszlee?
Here’s a question for the politburo of Harapan or maybe just the ruling coalition’s grand poobah. Why Maszlee? If a Malay/Muslim academic had to be chosen, surely there were candidates in a party like Amanah for instance, which is stacked to the brim, with academic types. Their CVs may not involve the subject of Islam but a wide range of disciplines which would have looked very good in the Education Ministry portfolio. Indeed, if I was so inclined, I could rattle off a few names which only brings controversy because they are “progressive” Muslims who either are concerned about the role of Islam in this country or they openly say they believe in the separation of mosque and state.
Both perspectives would have been beneficial in the Education Ministry portfolio because a weaponised Islam in this country has brought ruin to our education system and there is enough empirical evidence to demonstrate this. When it comes to the majority community in this country, race and religion are not mutually exclusive, hence any form of education system post-69 would cater to this.
With this in mind, does our new education minister think that we need Islam in our education system? What to his mind has been the effects of Islam in our education system? Has the role of Islam been beneficial or detrimental to our education system? If it the former, how so? If it is the latter, how does he intend to change it?
You do not change the Islamic discourse in this country by reforming religious schools, you change the discourse in this country by starting conversations on whether the supremacy of Islam is needed in a country which the current propaganda implies that the country is post-racial and post-religious with the supposed demise of Umno. Religious schools impart a very specific type of indoctrination and its relevance entirely depends on how the state uses religion in this country.
Preparing tahfiz students for the real world through vocational and semi-vocational training merely adds another level of bureaucracy open to abuse and adds another level of division in this multiracial/religious society. Can someone argue the utilitarian value of such religious schools funded on the tax ringgit of the rakyat?
It would be extremely easy to attack superficialities in our education system and make piecemeal reforms, which would be buried under the various other bread-and-butter events that are on the mind of the rakyat. Like I said, going back to basics is painstaking but if there is the political will to carry it out, we know that it works.
However, the first step is not pussyfooting around this issue. For all I know, our education minister may be the right man for the job despite evidence to the contrary. But he first has to lay our reforms that take into account the most damaging excesses of the former Umno state when it comes to race and religion in our education system.
There are no two ways about it.
posted by Major D Swami (Retired) @ 11:39 AM  
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