KUALA LUMPUR, Dec 29 — PAS president Datuk Seri Abdul Hadi Awang defended today his earlier remark aimed at ethnic Chinese educationists that they were living in a "Malay World" by asserting that the other Malaysian races should be grateful to the Malays who were the first occupiers of the land.

Hadi said that those who oppose the initial form of Bahasa Melayu were neo-colonialists and could be deemed enemies of Islam, calling for a jihad.

“Therefore the time will come when we can declare that those who cause hatred towards the Malays' original language that carried the effect of Islam's influence in this region are the remnants of the continuation of the neo-colonialism agenda, enemies that ought to have jihad declared against them,” he wrote on his Facebook page.

He claimed that past colonialists were against Bahasa Melayu and had sought to prevent its spread, but had not interfered with the use of Chinese or Tamil script locally.

Elaborating on his “Malay World” remark in relation to the debate on the teaching of the jawi script in vernacular schools, Hadi said that past maps of Nusantara or South-east Asia had identified the region “Alam Melayu” or Malay world.

He added that the terms “Benua Keling” had also been used for the Indian subcontinent in the past.

Hadi also said that Malays who are Muslims are not racial fanatics as they hold on to Islamic teachings that respect diversity among humanity.

“Other races should respect and be grateful for the permission by the Malay race who were first to step foot in this Malay World. The existence of other races in Tanah Melayu is because of the situation created during the colonial times,” he said in his Facebook page, using the pre-Malaysia term of Tanah Melayu or Malaya for the peninsula.

Weighing in on the jawi script storm, Hadi claimed that in the past, the country’s colonial masters had damaged the Malay writing system that was based on the Quran.

He added that Malays today are obliged to restore khat as the heritage of their language and that non-Malays though entitled to use their own script, are also obliged to learn the script of the “Malay world.”

“Don't be fanatic towards their own ethnic language in their country of origin and fight the tide in this Malay World,” he said of the other ethnic groups.

Hadi also spoke of the jawi script for Bahasa Melayu having links to words originating from Jawa (also known as present-day Java in Indonesia), which he said was the biggest Malay group in the region historically.

Hadi insisted that Malays who profess Islam were not fanatic but had the right to strengthen Bahasa Melayu as it had become the lingua franca as well as the national language in the country.

Jawi script was initially used for Bahasa Melayu in Malaysia is today romanised.

In the same statement, Hadi accused those of opposing the jawi script for Bahasa Melayu as acting in an extreme manner that he said was akin to disturbing a hornets' nest.

He also claimed that their actions were influenced by alleged global “Islamophobia.”

Hadi said Muslims were encouraged to learn other languages, including Mandarin and Tamil and that non-Muslims were not forced to change their use of language after becoming Muslims.

“Therefore it is very unfair if they block their ethnic groups from learning our language, even more unfortunate if they don't realise they are in the Malay World,” he said, adding that language is intended to draw those in the “Malay World” closer.

Hadi also argued that the jawi script was not being used for Islamisation, saying that it was easier to attract non-Muslims to Islam by explaining the religion in their respective mother tongue.

He ended his statement by saying: “Muslims are forbidden from finding enemies, but are encouraged to be at peace. But if forced to be enemies, then forbidden to back down.”

On Friday, Hadi was reported saying that Chinese educationist groups should remember where they were living, accusing the group of disrespecting “native residents” here and being ungrateful to “those who allow them to stay here.”

His Friday remarks came ahead of Dong Jiao Zong’s planned conference yesterday regarding the teaching of the jawi calligraphy in vernacular schools, which was subsequently cancelled after police obtained a court order to stop the event as a preventive measure against possible riots.

Following the cancellation order which Dong Jiao Zong said it would comply with, the group yesterday held a meeting attended by 17 Chinese organisations where it decided on four matters, including school boards to be allowed to decide on measures that the Education Ministry implements in vernacular schools.

The ethnic Chinese groups also decided in the meeting yesterday to urge the government to follow public wishes to cancel the inclusion of the teaching of jawi in the Primary Four syllabus for Bahasa Melayu in vernacular schools next year, and to accept the introduction of jawi through multicultural exchanges in schools, and to urge the education minister to quickly hold dialogues with Chinese educationist groups on the jawi script issue.