Maszlee's resignation: Harapan doesn't want to rock the indoctrination ministry - Commander S THAYAPARAN (Retired) Royal Malaysian Navy
Saturday, January 04, 2020
Malaysiakini : “If you're going to say what you want to say, you're going to hear what you don't want to hear.” ― Roberto Bolaño, 'The Insufferable Gaucho'
COMMENT | The resignation of Maszlee Malik as the minister of education has brought out huge helpings of schadenfreude amongst a certain section of social media. In his resignation speech,
Maszlee listed all the positive things his ministry had accomplished
and perhaps they are valid but what has clouded the issue is his
adherence to mainstream racial and religious narratives which is the
agenda of all mainstream politicians.
This made him the whipping boy of
a certain segment of Malaysian society because our education system for
decades has been a petri dish for the worst excesses of racial and
When Maszlee linked
the matriculation quota to a Mandarin-speaking requirement of certain
jobs, he more or less buried whatever was left of his credibility.
Partisans were quick to point to the “bigoted” nature of his comment and
Penang Deputy Chief Minister P Ramasamy – the conscience of Pakatan
Harapan – commented on Maszlee behaving
like an Umno clone, missing the point that the whole system was
corrupted and Harapan did not really have an agenda to change it.
discrimination in the public and the private sectors is not mutually
exclusive. Talking about the discrimination of the quota system and the
discrimination in the private sector, either overt or crypto, is not
something that can, and should be, had separately. It is part of the
grander, systemic dysfunction brought upon by years of governmental and
I may not believe in that mythical
"social contract" but an argument could be made that the social contract
of discrimination and racism is a social contract between political and
people have this misconception that I am an advocate for vernacular
school education. Nothing could be further from the truth. While I do
not think that vernacular schools create friction between the various
communities in Malaysia, I do think that that they do not add anything
to fostering ties especially amongst young people of different
My critics like to play this game. They say that what
someone like Perlis mufti Asri Zainul Abidin is advocating (for
instance that he wants to ban vernacular schools) is an attempt to
create national unity. This is complete horse manure. Look at the
context - religious and racial – of these proponents of banning
One, I do not want to ban vernacular schools. Parents should be free to
send their children to schools where they believe they will not be
exposed to bigoted or racists ideas of the state. Two, I want to make
national schools secular bastions where money is spent on improving
education opportunities for all Malaysians and where educational policy
is in step with the rapidly changing geopolitical and technology-driven
Many in the far right who want to ban
vernacular schools want to Islamise national schools and this nonsense
that non-Malays will not be affected is pure hogwash. The very fact that
you use religion to differentiate students makes it impossible for them
to discover the commonality in their young lives.
bigots use other countries as examples of cultural assimilation, they
conveniently leave out the fact that in those countries there are no
constitutional provisions that are used to discriminate citizens based
on race and religion and therefore a quota system is needed to ensure
racial and religious supremacy.
In other words, they say speak
our language, use our names but remember we the "true natives" of this
land entitled to everything. The quota system is there for us and you
are second-class citizens.
The reality is that what national
schools do, after years of failed policy, is create friction between the
various races. I am sympathetic to parents who send their children to
vernacular schools or as is the case now, to private schools, to escape
the racial and religious interference that national school education
Some of my critics think I am anti-Islam especially when I
write, say, “religious and racial” interference. The truth is that
while Islam is the main factor, I am against any kind of “cultural” or
“religious” groupings in schools. I think “Hindu”, “Christian” or
whatever else religious associations in schools, detract from
consensus-building amongst young people.
While P Gunasegaram’s article
advocating secularism was aimed at Maszlee and the Islamisation
process, it applies to all forms of cultural and religious
indoctrination. As he says, “So, let’s get on with educational reform.
The first step would be to make it secular. Religious education can only
be an adjunct to education, not its totality. The body of knowledge in
education anywhere cannot be dictated by religion, but must be
scrupulously kept areligious.”
Really, if you want your children
to learn about culture and religion, do it at home. School should be a
place where children are free from these types of constructs and a place
to explore ideas instead of having race and religion always shoved down
it would idiotic of me to think that the religion of the state does not
have the most influence and is the bigger impediment to
consensus-building in national schools. This is why Maszlee’s Yadim initiative is by far the most egregious of his transgressions. Read Malaysiakini columnist Fa Abdul’s piece
on what she and he son went though and tell me, if you are a Malaysian
parent – forget about race and religion – you would want to go through
that, hence vernacular or private education is the only option for you.
is what the circular approved by Maszlee stated - "The permission to
carry out Rakan Siswa Yadim (activities) is dependant upon the
permission of the institutions and/or schools, and is limited to Muslim
students who want to participate voluntarily." Does anyone really
believe it would be up to the students? As it is, parents who do not
want their students to participate in this would invite pressure from
the schools. Now, you could say why should I, a non-Malay, care what
happens to Malay students? But isn’t this the point of the religious
agenda? Make the non- Muslims differentiate from their Muslim brethren?
To not interfere in religion merely means to separate oneself from the
However, non-Malay politicians also play the same racial
game. The counternarrative to all this Islamisation in national schools
is not arguing for secularism but rather bolstering vernacular schools
as a means to garner votes. The big question has always been how much
effort and money have non-Malay politicians put into the development of
Chinese and Indian schools?
I have no idea if Maszlee is a decent
guy. Decency is not a prerequisite for anyone who truly wants to reform
the system. I have no idea if the seat was too hot for him. A reformer
defines the position, not the other way round.
I do know that
Maszlee was just like any other mainstream Malaysian politician and
unfortunately, there are more like him to choose from.