KUALA LUMPUR, Aug 10 — DAP Iskandar Puteri MP Lim Kit Siang said today he is standing by his statement on the introduction of khat in schools, calling all Malaysians instead to overcome their fear of one another.
After he was reportedly heckled on stage last night during a ceramah in his constituency for defending the Malay-Arabic calligraphy lesson, Lim downplayed the event, saying he was neither forced down nor chased away.
“Chinese, Malays and Indians are afraid of each other and live in fear. We must have the confidence to build a great Malaysia together,” he was reported by Malaysiakini as telling a press conference.
“We’re in a situation where Malays fear Chinese and Chinese fear Malays. In the past, DAP is accused of trying to destroy Malays and now DAP is being accused of betraying the Chinese.
“We need to come out of this. Our culture cannot disappear so easily... If only three pages [of khat lessons] can make Chinese culture disappear then I think there is a problem,” he added.
He also called for the need to view the subject matter in a wider perspective, adding that if khat is introduced in Chinese primary schools as an option and without examination, with Malays also learning Chinese calligraphy under the same conditions, it is a positive development.
Lim reportedly said that DAP has also consistently fought against any attempts at assimilation, but it also did not want segregation, adding that integration is the way forward.
“We want all races to understand each other better,” he added.
During the press conference Lim also reportedly addressed criticism that the introduction of khat would open the floodgates, pointing out that khat was in fact already taught in the Year Five Bahasa Malaysia textbook under the previous Barisan Nasional (BN) government.
Malaysiakini had reported that Lim was booed at a Hungry Ghost festival in his constituency, after he took the opportunity to explain the khat saga.
The Education Ministry’s plan to introduce khat, a form of Arabic-Malay calligraphy, as part of the national language syllabus for Year Four students sparked a strong reaction from mostly minority communities, many of whom saw the move as a subliminal attempt at “Islamisation”.
On Thursday, the ministry said the teaching of khat will be optional, and not compulsory as previously assumed, in vernacular schools.