Learning Jawi didn’t make me less Chinese but more Malaysian, says Kit Siang

DAP’s Lim Kit Siang today said he learnt to read the Jawi script when he was detained under the Internal Security Act. — Picture by Firdaus Latif
DAP’s Lim Kit Siang today said he learnt to read the Jawi script when he was detained under the Internal Security Act. — Picture by Firdaus Latif

KUALA LUMPUR, Aug 4 — DAP’s Lim Kit Siang today said he learnt to read the Jawi script when he was detained under the Internal Security Act and that it did not make him a traitor to the Chinese race, amid some public unease over teaching khat in vernacular schools.

Instead, the veteran lawmaker said it made him feel more Malaysian.

“May be another question that should be asked is whether a person who learns Jawi is betraying the Chinese race, language and culture,” the Iskandar Puteri MP said in a statement.

“To me, the answer is in the negative.

“When I was first detained under the Internal Security Act in 1969, I taught myself Jawi in detention. It did not make me any less of a Chinese, and may have helped in making me more of a Malaysian,” he added.

Lim’s assertion came as a response to yet another racially-charged controversy that followed the government’s move to introduce the Arabic calligraphy as part of its national language curriculum.

The move supposedly drew opposition from Chinese education group Dong Jiao Zhong. Malay and Chinese newspapers Utusan Malaysia and Sin Chew Daily respectively reported last Friday that the organisation had planned a protest, which it immediately denied.

In a statement yesterday, Dong Jiao Zong said it had only called for a closed-door meeting with other “multiracial” groups to discuss the matter.

However, the organisation admitted that it wanted a transparent discussion on the policy, suggesting there were suspicion among stakeholders that include education groups and the community.

Lim, who is currently in India for a work visit, said the country has long struggled to overcome the deep mistrust the different races have for each other, and that it was a major hindrance to integration.

But while he personally supported integration, Lim said there is a third alternative of nation-building: one that requires no assimilation or integration but where different communities live side by side but separately under the same political system.

“I have always advocated integration — not assimilation nor a nation building which is neither assimilation nor integration, but merely to let the separate communities to live by side although under the same political system,” he said.

Lim that said his lifelong political struggle has always been to break racial barriers and act as a bridge for Malaysia’s diverse communities.

“The Malaysia I want to see is one where the Malays, Chinese, Indians, Kadazans and Ibans come out of their own universes to interact with other communities,” the statement read.

“To learn, appreciate and accept that Malaysia is not to be identified with any one community but with all the different communities who have made the land their mother country.”

This, he added, means a Chinese has not betrayed race and culture for his exquisite Jawi skill, a Malay has not betrayed race and culture because of his Bharatanatyam repertoire, or an Indian betrayed race and culture because of his mastery of Chinese calligraphy.

Lim’s party DAP is scheduled to meet tomorrow to discuss the issue, according to news portal Malaysiakini, suggesting not all within the party are receptive to having Jawi in the curriculum for vernacular schools.

Detractors on the other hand have accused those who oppose the policy as racist and chauvinistic.

Some felt it was a misplaced priority, saying it would be better to focus on improving the quality of education in public schools.

The Education Ministry, however, said khat would not be compulsory, and that its introduction was only meant to foster cultural appreciation at an early stage.

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