Why is jawi issue controversial? Miscommunication and ‘fear factor’, says group

Dong Zong representative, Ng Chai Heng, speaks during the forum ‘Jawi: Saling Memahami’ at the Kuala Lumpur Selangor Chinese Assembly Hall (KLSCAH) in Kuala Lumpur December 26, 2019. — Picture by Shafwan Zaidon
Dong Zong representative, Ng Chai Heng, speaks during the forum ‘Jawi: Saling Memahami’ at the Kuala Lumpur Selangor Chinese Assembly Hall (KLSCAH) in Kuala Lumpur December 26, 2019. — Picture by Shafwan Zaidon

KUALA LUMPUR, Dec 27 ― Miscommunication among stakeholders and a “fear factor” from minority communities are among the reasons why the teaching of jawi in vernacular schools have become an issue, a forum on the matter was told.

The issue has fuelled tension among educationists, school officials and the public after the  government announced a plan to introduce jawi script at the basic level for Primary Four vernacular school pupils beginning next year.

However, originally the Ministry of Education (MoE) had intended to introduce the khat (jawi calligraphy) however vehemently objected by various education groups.

Dong Zong secretary-general Ng Chai Heng explained that minority communities have no issues of learning the jawi scripture as it had already been introduced within history lessons within a multicultural context.

However, Ng explained that the introduction of khat, which is stated in school history books is one of the representations of Islam, has drawn fear from parents of Islamisation within the classrooms.

“For Dong Zong, we accepted already the existing Year 5 history lessons that include the multiracial and multicultural context of the jawi, Chinese and Tamil calligraphy, and it was introduced for years.

“Have you heard Dong Zong or Tamil associations oppose it?  

“So you cannot blame them but It is our responsibility to make it clear to the public,” he said during the Jawi Forum: Mutual Understanding, organised by Gabungan Bertindak Malaysia (GBM) held at the Kuala Lumpur and Selangor Chinese assembly hall here yesterday.

Ng also explained that miscommunications have also blown out the issue out of proportions and lamented that those with the authority to contain the matter did not do so urgently.

Ng also said that the matter could have been resolved earlier if the Ministry of Education had considered the vernacular schools’ management board (LPS).

“If you take for example, if the Ministry of Education had first stated that LPS is one of the parties able to decide on the matter, I think the problem would be solved,” he said.

However, he praised the MoE for adapting to their needs several times compared to the initial decision to introduce khat.

Ng also explained that the “congress” as touted by many that will be held by the association this coming Saturday is merely a closed-door meeting.

Tamil Foundation president K. Arumugam also agrees with Ng that the fear of jawi stems from parents who are concerned over Islamisation within the classrooms.

Arumugam, however, suggested that the jawi debacle is not the biggest problems faced by the country’s education system and urged the MoE as well as Malaysians to have an honest discussion of having an inclusive agenda within the education system.

Among other speakers at the forum, today is Angkatan Belia Islam Malaysia (Abim) president Faisal Aziz, Ikram deputy president Badlishah Sham who both echoed the need for further discourse among different groups to strengthen unity and understanding.

Faisal also stated the fear of Islamisation should be discussed with facts and accurate information in the future.

MoE deputy director-general Habibah Abdul Rahim was also present as a speaker at the forum.

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