KUALA LUMPUR, July 14 — Requiring all Malaysian tertiary students to take up Islamic and Asian Civilization Studies (TITAS) was a bid by Putrajaya to foist “ketuanan Islam” (Islamic supremacy) on to the country, according to an observer critical of the decision.
Political analyst Dr Lim Teck Ghee, director of the Centre for Policy Initiatives (CPI), today savaged the government as he joined others opposing the decision to introduce TITAS and two other compulsory subjects in local private institutions.
“Among the various moves made in the educational system, this must rank as one of the most stupid and pathetic,” Lim told The Malay Mail Online today.
“If it takes place, of course it’s another step forward in the Islamisation of the country,” he said. “So it needs to be resisted.”
Lim said that a compulsory religious course was not necessary in the tertiary education system, pointing out that technical and professional courses were needed instead.
Deputy Prime Minister Tan Sri Muhyiddin Yassin, who is also education minister, said in Parliament on Thursday that TITAS will become mandatory for local students, regardless of their religion, at private institutions of higher learning (IPTS) starting in September.
He said the move was meant to streamline the requirements between public and private tertiary institutions.
Today, Lim said TITAS should not only be dropped as mandatory subject in IPTS but also in their public counterparts.
“First of all, we should resist this in public universities,” said Lim.
“Public universities are already criticised for having such low standards, having courses that are not related to employer concerns and demands.”
The analyst also noted that students already learn of Islamic civilisation in the History subject at the secondary level.
In 2011, historian Dr Ranjit Malhi Singh complained that the secondary school history texts have become too Islamic- and Malay-centric, noting that five out of 10 chapters in the current Form Four history textbook revolve around Islamic history, compared to just one chapter in the earlier edition.
He has also pointed out that more than a quarter of the text on Christianity, Buddhism, Taoism, Confucianism and Hinduism was reduced from the previous edition.
Today, education groups joined non-Muslim politicians in calling for TITAS to be made an elective, instead of a compulsory subject for Malaysian students in private tertiary institutions.
Datin Noor Azimah Abdul Rahim, chair of the English-language lobbyists Parent Action Group for Education (PAGE), said that while Islamic civilisation was a “good thing to learn”, university students should be free to select their own courses after having gone through years of mandatory subjects in primary and secondary school.
“You cannot impose it on them. Keep it as an elective,” Noor Azimah told The Malay Mail Online today.
Dr Yap Sin Tian, chairman of the United Chinese School Committees’ Association of Malaysia (Dong Zong), said it was unfair to make TITAS compulsory in a multi-cultural country.
“The Ministry of Education must respect different cultures, different races,” Yap told The Malay Mail Online today. “Like the Chinese, we have our morality and Confucianism and so on.”
Yesterday, MCA and DAP lawmakers have censured Putrajaya’s decision in making TITAS compulsory at private colleges and universities, warning the government of potential religious tension.