Petition to ban Dong Zong gets 50,000 signatures in just nine hours, nears target

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 13 — A petition calling for the government to ban Chinese educationist group Dong Zong as a racist organisation has gathered close to 65,000 signatures with 50,000 of them signed within the last nine hours.

The rapid pace of support for the petition started by Malay rights movement Gerakan Pengundi Sedar (GPS) underscored the growing racial tension over the government’s decision to proceed with teaching khat to Year Four pupils.

In its petition, GPS accused the United Chinese School Committees’ Association of stoking racial resentment by exploiting the khat issue to rally ethnic Chinese and Indians against the policy.

The group, which has been linked to conservative elements within the Opposition, claimed Dong Zong’s campaign against khat was a direct assault on Muslims and ethnic Malays.

“The government had compromised by making khat optional and reduced the lesson to just three pages,” the online petition read.

“But still dissatisfied with the compromise, they started to play on religious sentiment by linking khat and jawi to Islamisation attempt on minorities. Now they have started a petition This is defamation of the entire country, particularly the Muslim community.”

Dong Zong’s own signature campaign was launched on Sunday. The group said while it valued Islamic culture and art and back integration, it claimed khat lessons was an attempt at proselytisation.

In its petition, Dong Zong said it wants the Education Ministry to keep khat alongside Chinese and Tamil writing for the Year Five Bahasa Malaysia syllabus.

Khat is jawi calligraphy. Jawi is a local adaptation of Arabic script and predates the use of the Roman alphabet here.

While there have been disagreements about the motives behind the Education Ministry’s move to teach khat in schools, experts and educationists said likening jawi to Islamisation was an outright fallacy.

Regardless, the khat controversy has since threatened to deepen racial division as both opponents and supporters of the policy accused each other of fanning racial hate.

Last night, Prime Minister Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad called Dong Zong a racist organisation, claiming the group had never agreed with any federal education policies.

The prime minister said apart from the jawi calligraphy or khat issue, the group had also protested against the setting up of Vision School (Sekolah Wawasan) for fear of Chinese students mixing with other races.

In its petition, GPS said the opposition to khat was one of the many “extremist” positions Dong Zong has taken with regards to Malay and Islamic culture.

“Thus, we call on the government to ban the group as we are confident that there are many more moderate and patriotic Chinese organisations out there.”