Education Ministry mulls action against debate jury chiefs, says no ‘sensitive’ ethno-religious topics allowed

The Ministry of Education is mulling action against two jury chiefs over motions deemed 'controversial and insensitive' towards Muslims. — Picture by Yusof Mat Isa
The Ministry of Education is mulling action against two jury chiefs over motions deemed 'controversial and insensitive' towards Muslims. — Picture by Yusof Mat Isa

KUALA LUMPUR, Oct 15 — The Ministry of Education (MOE) said today it is contemplating taking action against two jury chiefs for an inter-school debate tournament, following furore over three motions deemed “controversial and insensitive” towards Muslims.

In a statement, the ministry said Standard Operating Procedure dictates that debate motions should not touch on the sensitivities of religions, ethnic groups and culture that can “threaten national security”.

“The ministry through the Higher Education Department is reviewing the possibility of taking action against the duo, who are also students from a public higher education institution.

“The ministry will not compromise with any parties that break the stipulated rules, whether deliberately or not, in organising programmes that can affect the peace between races and religions.”

It said its investigation found that Mohammad Aidil Ali and Iyad Zakiy Amal, the co-chief adjudicators of the Tun Razak Cup which concluded on Sunday, had not discussed the motions or consulted the host, Sekolah Dato Abdul Razak in Seremban.

Yesterday, the duo apologised over the motions for the pre-quarterfinals round, which had “religion” as the theme.

The three motions required participants to debate separate legal systems for religious communities; how moderate Islamic scholars would republish Quran with content vulnerable to radical misinterpretation removed; and how being homosexual is not a sin in Islam.

The duo said the motions fell under the category of “hypothetical motion”, under which the debaters are required to envision an imaginary world where the motions can take place.

They also explained that the motions were not created with the intention to “indoctrinate or brainwash” the debaters, or part of a “liberal agenda”.

“In the defence of debating a sport, debating has always been an activity where participants are required to think out of the box, to not limit one’s worldview while at the same time not sacrificing their faith and belief, and be ready to think critically,” they said in a statement.

The motions received intense backlash from Malay-Muslim groups, especially after an Islamic school, Sekolah Menengah Agama Persekutuan Kajang, also had to debate the motions in the round.

The Tun Razak Cup pits debaters from the country’s prestigious boarding schools between Form One and Form Three, and this year’s edition saw defending champion Sekolah Tun Abdul Rahman from Ipoh emerge as the victor.

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