Malaysiakini : “Keep your language. Love its sounds, its modulation, its rhythm.
But try to march together with men of different languages, remote from
your own, who wish like you for a more just and human world.” ― Helder Camara, Spiral Of Violence
| I get worked up whenever non-Malays talk about the beauty of
multiculturalism and how Malaysia is a melting pot of cultures and how
we are all 'Bangsa Malaysia'. A prime example of how all this is so much
horse manure is the khatcontroversy that has some non-Malays concerned about the influence of Malay/Muslim culture in our education system. UKM’s
Institute of Ethnic Studies Teo Kok Seong said, “This kind of attitude
shows that we have actually failed in the process of establishing a
nation of one heart and one soul.”
of course we have failed in establishing a nation of one heart and one
soul. Why? Because we have a constitution that defines us along racial
lines, a political system divided by race, a bureaucracy dominated by a
majority and political operatives who claim that the state-sanctioned
religion gives them the mandate to rule over non-Muslims who should be “pak turut”.
National laureate Lim Swee Tin claims that khat
or Jawi writing will not jeopardise one's faith. Well, of course, it
won’t. When Malay/Muslim parents send their children to Chinese
vernacular schools, have there been reports that their children’s faith
had been jeopardised? Have there been police reports that their
children's faith had been leached out of them because they mixed with
Similarly, learning this khat writing -
or whatever it is - is not going to jeopardise the faith or lack thereof
(as may be the case) of non-Malay children. But this is not really the
point, is it? What some people fear is the intrusion of culture/religion
in our supposedly secular spaces.
The question is, is this fear
legitimate? Teo said that in order for us to move forward as a nation,
“the people must be open to learning the arts and cultures of others in
order to understand their uniqueness and strength.” Here is the
thing though. Learning about culture is a one-way street in Malaysia.
The non-Malays have no choice but to learn about Malay culture while the
Malays get to retreat to a mainstream political system that claims that
their culture, their economic survival and their political system is
under threat because of the non-Malays – which generally means the
DAP’s Liew Chin Tong said
that the new Malaysia project means, “We must do it with new
assumptions, new concepts and new ideas. This applies to institutional
reforms, the economy, defence and security and culture and identity.”
what new assumptions, concepts and ideas have Pakatan Harapan
introduced when it comes to this new Malaysia project? In the short time
of Harapan rule, we have been reminded to “not spook the Malays”, reminded that the "deep state" is out to stifle reforms, Mujahid Yusof Rawa has introduced us to “compassionate Islam” and needs-based affirmative action has not been accepted as the new normal.
Liew also bemoaned that we see the 'other' as a threat. He wrote,
“Some Chinese fear that the Malay officialdom would attempt to eliminate
their cultural identity. Some Malays think that the Chinese are
scheming to dominate the Malays.”
Okay, Liew, which of those two
propositions could be backed up with evidence and actual governmental
policy? Which of those two propositions has merit and was the basis of a
people's struggle under the long Umno watch? Which of those two
propositions are a direct result of actions by state actors in the name
of race and religion which, by the way, the DAP opposed for decades?
So is opposing khat anti-Malay? People who are concerned about the introduction of khat
in our education system are merely reacting to decades of the
Islamisation process that turned an education system that was one of the
better elements of our colonial legacy into the broken, religious and
racially addled system it is today.
The real question is, why even
introduce something like this at this moment? Surely there are more
important issues in our education system that need to be addressed? Even
in this was not a cultural issue, is good handwriting a priority when
it comes to educating our young people? What possible benefit could the
introduction of khat into our education system have beyond the pabulums espoused by certain non-Muslim intellectuals?
this has become a minor skirmish in a culture war that the Harapan
government should not engage in. It also demonstrates that when it comes
to anything to do with the Malay/Muslim culture, the normally
boisterous political operatives in DAP have suddenly become mute (the
grassroots-level of political operatives of the party exempted, of
course). If this was something that the BN regime had done, you could
imagine the controversy it would have generated.
supporters of Bersatu are quick to condemn non-Malays when they speak up
on the very issues which were political currency for Malay political
operatives before the historic May 9 win.
This idea that speaking up on “non-Malay” issues would rock the Harapan boat is prevalent in social media. When
it comes to the culture war, the non-Malays lost a long time ago. The
reality is that people who speak up on issues like these are like
soldiers who skulk around in jungles not realising the war is over.
Don't look to non-Malay political operatives in Harapan to oppose such measures. They are now part of the problem.