Interfaith forum blames education system, national schools for racial polarisation


by Jennifer Gomez and Shahirah Rashid
The Malaysian Insider
February 06, 2014

National schools are the breeding ground for racial polarisation and the education system is the root cause of the problem plaguing the country now, an interfaith forum was told yesterday.

Parents Action Group for Education (PAGE) chairman Datin Noor Azimah Abdul Rahim told an audience of about 65 at the interfaith forum titled “A dialogue for harmony”, that it was all about Malay supremacy in schools now.

PAGE was among 40 civil groups and non-governmental organisations at the forum in conjunction with World Interfaith Harmony Week, jointly organised by the Global Movement of Moderates and Promotion of Human Rights (Proham).

“The only solution is for the glory of national schools to be returned, which means we need more subjects in English in national schools, because right now, national schools are Malay schools and nothing more,” said Noor Azimah.

She said certain Muslim groups funded by Putrajaya were also the source of the problem.

Sisters in Islam executive director Ratna Osman also touched on the education system, saying her sons were told in school that they could not mix with non-Muslims.

“I was shocked when an ustazah told them they cannot be with non-Muslims because they are not like us, because we are supreme human beings.

“I am disgusted because that is not the kind of education which I received 30 years ago,” Ratna said.

She also questioned who gave these Muslim bodies the authority to speak on behalf of Muslims in the country.

“Who gave them the right to say Muslims feel hurt and threatened?”

Ratna also said she was puzzled that Muslims could feel they were under threat when they made up 60% of the population.

“There was a minister who made a statement that we cannot have interfaith dialogue with other religions because we are supreme.

“As a Muslim, I am insulted by that statement. When we have this mentality, we cannot have interfaith dialogues.”

Another participant, Dr Hamidah Marican, called for the “education system to be taken away from politicians and given to moderates”.

She also called on Putrajaya to review government policies that were discriminatory and be more inclusive.

“These policies impact us on the ground, especially on young people in universities, who are very exclusive in their ways.

“This is not what we want to see in our young people. This is where the government needs to start, forget about the 1Malaysia rhetoric.”

A housewife from Kelantan, Nik Elin Zurina Nik Abdul Rashid, said that she was fighting with her fellow Muslims who were extreme in their ways and having difficulty speaking to them about Islam.

Referring to Malay rights groups ISMA (Ikatan Muslimin Malaysia) and Perkasa as overzealous bigots, she said that politicians were dividing the people over race, religion and gender issues.

“We don’t need the politicians, housewives like us will do,“ she said on spreading unity.

GMM chief executive officer Datuk Saifuddin Abdullah who also spoke at the forum admitted that Muslim groups were currently not engaging the non-Muslims in inter-religious dialogue.

He said Putrajaya should take the lead in this issue and suggested that minister in charge of Islamic affairs Datuk Seri Jamil Khir Baharom and Tan Sri Joseph Kurup, who was in charge of non-Muslims affairs, take the lead.

Calling it the “J + J collaboration”, Saifuddin said both ministers should jointly chair a dialogue to facilitate better understanding on inter-religious issues, mainly on the use of the word “Allah” by non-Muslims.

Saifuddin said it was pointless for Kurup and Jamil to chair their dialogues separately.

“They should do it together, but how they do it, whether it is behind closed doors, will be up to them,” he said, adding that he will raise the suggestion at the next National Unity Consultative Council meeting on February 15.

Saifuddin said the religious conflict in Malaysia had already affected its international standing, seen in comments made by the United Nations Special Rapporteur late last year.

He was referring to the UN Special Rapporteur on Freedom of Religion and belief, Heiner Bielefeldt, who had urged Putrajaya to reverse its decision to ban Catholic weekly Herald from using the word “Allah” to refer to God, warning that the case may have far-reaching implications for religious minorities in the country.

“That is why interfaith dialogues should be mooted. We have to show that Malaysians are capable of discussing issues in a civil manner.

Proham secretary-general Datuk Dr Denison Jayasooria agreed, while touching on the current “Allah” row.

Denison said those who were against the use of the word “Allah” by non-Muslims probably did not have any dialogue with Christians who prayed in Bahasa Malaysia.

“Possibly these people have not sat down with a Sabahan Christian who has been using the Malay Bible since the time of their great grandfathers,” he added.

In the 1980s, several states and their Muslim fatwa committees passed laws forbidding the use of the word “Allah” and several Arabic terms by non-Muslims.

These include the 1988 Selangor enactment and the 1986 decree by the National Fatwa Council.

However, these laws were not widely enforced until 2008 when the Home Ministry banned Herald from using the term in the Bahasa Malaysia section of the publication.

“Allah” is used by Christians who worship in Bahasa Malaysia and Iban, such as those in Sabah and Sarawak.

Two-thirds of Malaysia’s 2.9 million Christians are from Sabah and Sarawak. The Herald won a High Court decision in January 2009 that overturned the ministry’s ban.

The Court of Appeal, however, overturned that decision in 2013, saying that the word was not integral to Christianity. The church is appealing the decision. – February 6, 2014.

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  1. #1 by lee tai king (previously dagen) on Thursday, 6 February 2014 - 8:47 am

    ///She also questioned who gave these Muslim bodies the authority to speak on behalf of Muslims in the country.

    “Who gave them the right to say Muslims feel hurt and threatened?”///

    Umno is the supreme grand master of the universe and the GOD of all gods.

    Umno needs no one for authority.

    Umno already is possessed of great supreme authority.

    All hail umno. All hail umno.

  2. #2 by Bigjoe on Thursday, 6 February 2014 - 10:01 am

    I think they mean to blame ‘lack of a real education’ system. An its not just the ‘lack of a real education’ that is the problem, so long as the mediocre think they can abuse the system to not only avoid their place of mediocrity but even thrive in it, so long you will have these abuse of social, cultural and yes religo-capital that is our collective inheritance.

  3. #3 by sheriff singh on Thursday, 6 February 2014 - 10:22 am

    ” … a minister who made a statement that we cannot have interfaith dialogue with other religions because we are supreme. .. ”

    Who is this Minister and is this the official BN / UMNO government position ? No wonder we can never have dialogues with Muslims because they will not come to dialogue but to demand and want their uncompromising positions and stands to be accepted wholesale by non-Muslims. No discussions, just obey the Muslims. Pak Lah, the ‘moderate’ PM with his ‘Islam Hadhari’, failed miserably and got no where with the flock. He had to finally give up and was ‘punished’ at the polls.

    ” … an ustazah told them they (Muslims) cannot be with non-Muslims because they are not like us, because we are supreme human beings. … ”

    Gooood Lord !! No wonder we have so much polarisation. Is this the face of Islam ? The authorities must do something or else our kids will be brainwashed for generations and we will never have unity. Let us hope that this is not the official government stand being implemented by the national and state religious authorities and the Biro Tata Negara.

    ” … Muslims could feel they were under threat when they made up 60% of the population. … ”

    Is this our reflection of the larger picture of the Arab world being ‘threatened’ by a few million Jews ? Or the placing of permanent, unmovable chips on the shoulders and psyche of our people ?

    We have had Unity Ministers e.g. Koh Tsu Koon, etc but what have they achieved really in terms of forging unity and dialogues? Having a spineless, directionless and elegantly silent kangkong PM isn’t helping either.

  4. #4 by sheriff singh on Thursday, 6 February 2014 - 10:45 am

    ” … Interfaith forum blames education system, national schools for racial polarisation … ”

    We should see how our school administrators (including the super-duper large Education Ministry with two Ministers and umpteen Deputies) and teachers are being taught and trained to have a better idea as to what is happening in the schools.

    If say, the teachers are being improperly trained and indoctrinated, then these teachers will in due course impart their ‘values’ to their students. If the Ministry’s policies are bad (Is ‘ketuanan’ official policy?), these will also be passed down the line. So let us go study the sources of our problems.

    In recent times, we have had too many cases of teachers making racist remarks, implementing racist and narrow minded policies and the like. Recent cases like the Sri Pristana school and the cow bell incidents readily come to mind. The headmasters and headmistresses were involved. Something is definitely wrong with the administration of our schools and this should be quickly investigated and corrected.

  5. #5 by sheriff singh on Thursday, 6 February 2014 - 10:46 am

    Your comment is awaiting moderation.

    ” … Interfaith forum blames education system, national schools for racial polarisation … ”

    We should see how our school administrators (including the super-duper large Education Ministry with two Ministers and umpteen Deputies) and teachers are being taught and trained to have a better idea as to what is happening in the schools.

    If say, the teachers are being improperly trained and indoctrinated, then these teachers will in due course impart their ‘values’ to their students. If the Ministry’s policies are bad (Is ‘ketuanan’ official policy?), these will also be pas$ed down the line. So let us go study the sources of our problems.

    In recent times, we have had too many cases of teachers making racist remarks, implementing racist and narrow minded policies and the like. Recent cases like the Sri Pristana school and the cow bell incidents readily come to mind. The headmasters and headmistresses were involved. Something is definitely wrong with the administration of our schools and this should be quickly investigated and corrected.

  6. #6 by LC renoir on Thursday, 6 February 2014 - 11:44 am

    > If the Ministry’s policies are bad (Is ‘ketuanan’ official policy?)<

    Yes, it's ultimately political. Despite the goodwill by educated Muslims and others, no genuine change can occur unless BN is defeated in the next general elections and Pakatan takes over. This is the reality of the situation and it's no use dancing around it.

  7. #7 by boh-liao on Thursday, 6 February 2014 - 5:00 pm

    Perkosa-UmnoB/BN love IGNORANT n brain-dead, brain-washed rakyat who will then continue 2 consistently n blindly vote 4 Perkosa-UmnoB/BN

  8. #8 by bangkoklane on Thursday, 6 February 2014 - 5:06 pm

    We must put in place anti-racism laws and other laws against all forms of discrimination. That is the only way forward for Malaysia.

  9. #9 by bangkoklane on Thursday, 6 February 2014 - 5:10 pm

    Can the Penang and Selangor state governments lead the way by putting in place laws against all forms of discrimination and racism?

  10. #10 by Noble House on Friday, 7 February 2014 - 11:32 am

    I stood witness to the birth of this nation called Malaya then and Malaysia now. Our strength lies in the diversity of our ethnicity which were once the envy of many others. We had one of the best-performing school systems in education that produced many top brains that can take on the best the world has had to offer.

    Then came along someone with his twisted version on how the country must be run according to his own rules. The rest, as they say, is history.

  11. #11 by good coolie on Saturday, 8 February 2014 - 10:54 pm

    That Muslims are the best of mankind, is a faith-belief based on the Koran. It has a specific theological meaning. As a Muslim, one can sincerely hold that belief and still engage in inter-faith dialogue with members of other religions. This had been done in Malaysia before the ultras and extremists took control in Malaysia with their supreme nonsense.
    Moderate Malaysians(especially moderate Muslims) have failed to stand up to the extremists in sufficient numbers. A few flowers, though, have spoken up with their soft and fragrant support. Thank you!

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