Khat has everything to do with religion - Commander S THAYAPARAN (Retired) Royal Malaysian Navy
Wednesday, August 07, 2019
Malaysiakini : COMMENT | “We will discuss it further, but the thing is, it is an art form,” – Wan Azizah
idea that khat has nothing to do with religion, that it is merely an
art form meant to instill some sort of “appreciation” and handwriting
skill in young children is bunkum. The government and various
politicians' rejoinders that the politicization of this issue is merely
a symptom of “old Malaysia” is in fact a tactic of Old Malaysia now
redeployed to ensure compliance from a Harapan base, with the threat
that the old Malaysia would return if certain sensitivities are not
Claiming that khat has nothing to do with religion is
mendacious. Khat and religion in this country are not mutually
exclusive. Perhaps it is elsewhere, but not in this country. Just last year, as reported in the mainstream Malay press, Jakim
intended to form a Jawi community secretariat to strengthen the writing
of Jawi in this country. One of its initiatives was to create
programmes related to Jawi and, of course, the promotion of khat.
Also last year, Pemanis (Persatuan Melayu Perlis) advocated the teaching of Jawi in preschools. Two
years ago, as reported in the mainstream Malay press, Exco Persatuan
Seni Khat Kebangsaan (PSKK) urged KDN and Jakim to enact legislation
to curb errors in khat sentences. Indeed, if one is to go online, you
will discover that there have been various “fatwas” by state religious
bodies on the proper use of khat writing in commercial products (for
example) and other (what many would consider mundane) issues.
Indeed in May this year, Jakim started collaborating with Yayasan Restu to gain expertise in the writing of khat for one of their religious diploma programmes. What is Yayaysan Restu ? From their website:
Restu Foundation was established in 1998 as a non-profit organization.
It aims to spread the message of Islam throughout the world, strengthen
the faith of Muslims and revive the field of Islamic arts. "The
Restu foundation dedicated itself to compile and record the traditional
cultural motifs of the Malays for every state in Malaysia that are
clearly influenced by the Islamic culture.”
So again, this idea
that khat has nothing to do with religion, is horse manure. Anything
the Federal religious bureaucracy gets involved with has to do with
religion. This is a fact. What is also a fact is that the
religious bureaucracy will get involved with anything if it believes it
could add a religious dimension to it. However, this should
not detract from the reality that the talking point of khat proponents
that this has nothing to do with religion, is just another attempt to
bamboozle the non-Malays.
Non-Malays are being misled into
allowing our public space – which includes the public space of Muslims
who do not subscribe to state orthodoxy – to be Islamized because the
government of the day needs to buttress its Islamic credentials.
When Lim Guan Eng (above) blames Sin Chew Jit Poh,
for stirring up non-Malay fear of khat, what does this say about Lim
Guan Eng and his eagerness to propagate an art form, which is linked
with religion and which the state actively uses to strengthen its hold
on the majority of this country ?
Harry Tan Huat Hock,
secretary-general of the National Union of Teaching Profession (NUTP),
claimed that the introduction of khat was to “inculcate the value of
the Malay heritage and national identity, and that issue should not be
blown out of proportion to the extent of inviting controversy “
from better handwriting, the goal post has been shifted to inculcating
the value of Malay heritage and national identity. How does learning to
write in a specific way inculcate the values Harry talks about? And why
do young children have to learn the values of Malay heritage and
Keep in mind that Malay heritage and national
identity are mutually exclusive. Furthermore, Malay heritage, despite
historical and cultural revisionism, is not based on doctrinal imports
from the House of Saud.
Mujahid Rawa (below), in a piece
expressing his devotion to Jawi, made the same claims or rather he
conflated certain concepts. He made the claim that learning Jawi is an honour for Malaysians, and the rather noxious meme that in order to be a
united Bangsa Malaysia, we would cherish Jawi as one people.
readers of my columns know I despise the Bangsa Malaysia that is passed
around, mainly by the DAP. Do you see what is happening here? Lim Kit
Siang claims that learning Jawi may have made him a better Malaysian,
and now we have Harapan’s religious czar pushing the idea that Jawi is
linked with with the concept of Bangsa Malaysia.
What happened to
ideas of secularism, egalitarianism, shared history, shared culture and
the various other non-religious building blocks that we were told was
what we should aspire to before the historic May 9th win? Those ideas do
not seem attractive to politicians who are bending over backwards to
justify ideas that they once claimed could only come from Umno/BN.
my last article I noted that learning about culture is a one-way street
in Malaysia. Whether you think that learning khat somehow strengthens
national unity, or makes you a better Malaysian, or is just a rather
innocuous government policy is not the point. The point is that
the propaganda that khat has nothing to do with religion, that khat is
somehow mutually exclusive from religion, that khat is merely about art,
is misleading and mendacious.
If it was all those things, I
believe that people would not object to it. If this country believed
that learning about each other's culture is a positive, where one
culture is not buttressed by supremacist policies, than all this would
mean nothing, and khat would be taken at face value. This is not the case here.
are free to believe that learning Jawi and khat makes you a better
Malaysian, but you are not free to propagate the idea that khat has
nothing to do with religion.