GEORGE TOWN, Dec 30 — Penang Mufti Datuk Seri Wan Salim Wan Mohd Noor said controversial preacher Dr Zakir Naik should not have been included in the syllabus of a university.
He said the support for the fugitive Indian preacher should not be included in the academic world as this could “poison” the thinking of students and cause further discord between various communities.
“An institution of higher education’s role is to unite the people instead of encouraging divisiveness and enmity between them,” he said in a statement today.
Wan Salim was responding to reports that a university examination question on ethnic relations at the Universiti Malaysia Perlis (UniMAP) had described Zakir as an “an icon in the Muslim world”.
He called on all institutions of higher education to be more responsible in such matters and to closely monitor their syllabus, especially examination questions.
“They must ensure there are no negative elements in the syllabus as what was spread on social media regarding the ethnic relations subject in UniMAP,” he said.
Wan Salim went on to say that he regarded Dr Zakir as an extraordinary Muslim preacher and intellectual leader.
“His ability in preaching about Islam cannot be disputed,” he said.
However, he said this high regard for Dr Zakir should not lead to irrational action that did not respect and protect the harmonious relations of Malaysia’s multiracial, multi-religious and multi-cultural society.
Penang Deputy Chief Minister II P. Ramasamy also criticised the examination question as “problematic”, “blatantly biased” and “devoid of epistemology”.
The Penang lawmaker, in a statement today, said even if the question on Dr Zakir could be justified, the lecturer who set it should have opened up more multiple choices for students answering the question.
“It is biased in favour of Naik, it does not divulge information about why he is wanted by India, the alleged crimes he committed, why Malaysia is sheltering him and why there was a police ban on him,” he said.
He pointed out that the multiple choice answers were tailored to fit the question posed so the students were denied an opportunity to give the best possible answer.
“The question itself reflects the poverty of knowledge of lecturers in public universities, the course contents and more importantly the nature of public universities,” he said.
He added that this reflected badly on the state of academia in public universities and the way of dissemination.
“In a more fundamental sense, the Pakatan Harapan government lacks the leadership and dynamism from leading the universities from the present slumber,” he said.
Ramasamy said Education Minister Maszlee Malik has failed to take the initiative to reform the public universities.
“These universities are merely exaggerated versions of secondary schools,” he said.
He added that local universities have not have taken up the global challenge of science and technology but were “preoccupied with missionary work and the exaltation of criminals who pretend to be icons.”
“The question on Naik was something that was leaked to the public,”
“I am not sure whether other public universities in the country have set examination questions on Naik,” he said.
He said it would not be surprising if other public universities have similar examination questions on Dr Zakir.
The examination question at UniMAP read: “Zakir Naik is one of the icons of the Islamic world, he is very active in spreading true Islam and following the Quran and Sunnah of Rasullah SAW. He is able to reason and to answer every question that is asked to him. However, in Malaysia, he is no longer allowed to deliver his preaching. In your opinion, as a Malaysian, why does it happen?"
Multiple choice answers were provided for the question.
The answers provided were: (1) Malaysians do not bother; (2) Sensitive Malaysians feel threatened for no reason; (3) Malaysians are normally submissive without any reason; (4) Malaysians are ignorant about their own religion.