Khat the bullshit and let’s have a discussion — Jasmine Cho

AUGUST 14 — Introducing khat calligraphy into the school syllabus will not be the end of Malaysia. Neither will signing a petition that makes your voice known. Rather, it is the endless and immature bickering between ethnic groups to show who has the most significant and superior role in the country.

If Tun Dr Mahathir Mohammad and a representative of the Chinese Education Association, Dong Zong, sat down side by side and swallowed their sensitive pride, I can assure you that an understanding would be reached within minutes. But rather than dedicate time to address a dissatisfaction over this simple matter of teaching khat in schools, Dr Mahathir decided to publicly lambaste the Dong Zong association as “racist”. As if that’s going to do anything to diffuse the situation.

But since it seems that the authorities in the country have yet to learn the lesson that “communication is key”, my unqualified self is going to try break down the situation.

The Chinese community has always been protective of their mother tongue education — there is nothing wrong with that. Heritage is an important part of anyone’s development, especially in the everchanging modern age in which you wish to understand your place in the world and relate to your ancestors. There is also the urge to push against what may be seen as another Islamic influence in the form of compulsory khat calligraphy classes. This too is understandable as Malaysia does have a majority Malay community with Islamic overtones — nothing wrong with that either, just the reality.

But do you think anyone truly believes that forced practicing of any language will miraculously transform a bunch of year four students into devout Muslims and rip them from their Chinese ancestry? No, I think not. However, the anxiety coming from the United Chinese School Committees’ Association represents a real concern, one that deserves to be addressed with respect and sensitivity by the prime minister.

Now let’s go over to Dr Mahathir — he has somewhat of a better track record than Datuk Seri Najib Razak when it comes to allowing free speech and gone are the days where you could be jailed for insulting a leader on Facebook. However, outright labelling an organisation that expresses their concerns (even if misplaced) as “racists” is not smart. It shows a defensive and immature response.

Every criticism against a leader can be taken as an opportunity. An opportunity to show sensitivity as a leader and respect for all your people. Dr Mahathir has sourly missed this opportunity, instead giving in to the ping-pong game of bickering that does nothing but de-stabilise our country.

Although this specific argument revolves around squiggly lines on a paper, it represents a much larger reality in Malaysia. The tension between the ethnicities and the urge to insult and point a finger whenever an opportunity presents itself.

Dong Zong — you are not racist, rather your worry and protective nature of your children has caused you to panic and consider any little act as a threat to your heritage.

Dr Mahathir — the open policy your government has began practicing that supposedly allows for groups to voice their views is a step.... don’t ruin it with immature outbursts such as this.

My hope is to out this khat issue, which has already captured far more attention than necessary, can be put to rest with open communication, understanding and sensitivity that can progress Malaysia as a united nation rather than act as a tool of divisiveness.

* This is the personal opinion of the writer or publication and does not necessarily represent the views of Malay Mail.