KUALA LUMPUR, Aug 13 — Chinese educationist groups Dong Zong and Jiao Zong have pointed to a statement by Putrajaya-backed missionary group Yayasan Dakwah Islamiah Malaysia (Yadim) to defend its accusation of Islamisation through khat lessons.

In a joint statement, the groups also said that the Malay-Arabic calligraphy was previously taught in Islamic Education instead of Bahasa Malaysia, and should remain so as non-Malays would not even be familiar with the Jawi script in the first place.

“There is basis for the opposition against teaching khat, due to the suspicion that it is a form of evangelism and part of an Islamisation effort,” they said.

The groups cited Yadim chairman Nik Omar Nik Abdul Aziz who in supporting the lesson, said it would increase the younger generation’s comprehension of the Jawi script and Arabic language to help them learn, understand, and practice Quranic teachings.

They also cited scholarly writings such as a paper titled “Contribution of Arabic Calligraphy to Islamic Art: A Historical Study” by academic Mohd Bakhir Abdullah.

They added that others have also objected to the teaching of khat in vernacular schools, adding that the same sentiment was also shared by many in the non-Muslim community across the country.

It added that likewise, not all Malays also supported the move to introduce khat writing, pointing to former minister Tan Sri Rafidah Aziz’s remark, who called for the topic to be made an elective and not mandatory.

“The teaching of khat was rejected because of the failure by the Education Ministry’s officers to take into concern the views of the non-Malay communities, be it Dong Zong, Jiao Zong, Tamil Foundation or MCCBCHST,” it said referring to Malaysian Consultative Council of Buddhism, Christianity, Hinduism, Sikhism and Taoism.

“The reality is that all these while, the art of khat was taught in the Islamic Education subject, from Year Four onwards, for Muslim students, who learn Jawi since they are in Year One. 

“What is the rational for teaching the khat art form in the Bahasa Malaysia subject, when non-Muslim students don’t even know the Jawi script?” they asked.

They also called on Prime Minister Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad to hear the views of all quarters in the khat polemic and not deny the concerns of the non-Muslims, reminding the government of the importance a good engagement process involving all stakeholders.

Additionally, they reminded the government, especially Education Minister Maszlee Malik, to form a consultative body involving all communities, languages and religion in the ministry, to avoid a similar controversy from recurring.

On Monday, Dr Mahathir criticised Dong Zong over its vehement rejection of khat on the grounds of religious freedom, saying the group was consistently against any policy related to education. 

However, Iskandar Puteri MP Lim Kit Siang said that Dr Mahathir’s description of a Chinese education group as “racist” for objecting to khat in primary schools was misguided.