If khat is Islamic, are Roman characters Christian? Perlis mufti asks

A woman walks past a piece of khat calligraphy in Balik Pulau, Penang August 6, 2019. — Picture by Sayuti Zainudin
A woman walks past a piece of khat calligraphy in Balik Pulau, Penang August 6, 2019. — Picture by Sayuti Zainudin

KUALA LUMPUR, Aug 9 — Perlis Mufti Datuk Mohd Asri Zainul Abidin has claimed that the Malay-Arabic calligraphy of khat is not an attempt at Islamisation, but just part of the country’s heritage.

He compared khat to Roman alphabets, saying if the same logic used for the former is applied, then the latter would similarly convert others into Christianity.

“The jawi we have isn’t entirely ‘pure’, there are some Persian character adaptations in it. Some alphabets are not Arabic.

“Jawi writing does not represent the Islam religion. Although the Quran does use the characters, but it is what is written which represents Islam, not the kind of [characters] it is written in.

“Otherwise, if we write in the Romanised form, does it mean that we become Christians?” he said when responding to a question raised during a lecture in Kangar last night.

“In Arab countries, the Bible is written in Arabic. Rock singers sing in Arabic. Books which oppose Islam among the Arabs, what language are they written in? Arabic,” he added.

The Perlis mufti also alleged that Islamophobia is behind the tension and confusion surrounding the introduction of khat writing in the Bahasa Malaysia syllabus for Standard Four pupils.

He said it was how khat was introduced to the non-Muslims which led to the misconception by non-Muslims.

“If we tell the non-Muslims that jawi is a language which is used to defend the Islam religion, obviously the non-Muslims are not going to want to learn it because they are not Muslims.

“There, is likely where it went wrong,” he said, referring to how Muslims attempted to explain khat.

He gave an example of the Malay headgear of songkok, saying that in India, even non-Muslims wear something similar.

“But the Prophet [Muhammad] never wore a songkok,” he said.

“Same goes to the baju Melayu and samping. It does not represent religion, it is a Malay attire.

“It is the same misconceptions applied to Jawi writing and I sense there is hatred with anything related to [Islam]. That is wrong,” he added.

Following opposing views conveyed by several related quarters including Chinese and Tamil educationists, Education Minister Maszlee Malik yesterday said teachers would be given the power to decide on how to teach it.

Yesterday, the minister said the introduction to khat would be implemented in an optional manner where teachers will be given the power to decide on the method they would use to teach in respective classrooms.