What is wrong about TITAS

by Dr Lim Teck Ghee
18th July 2013

Pandan Member of Parliament Rafizi Ramli’s support of the proposal by the Ministry of Higher Education to make the Islamic and Asian Civilisation Studies (TITAS) course compulsory in private tertiary institutions (IPTS) is a disappointment. More disappointing is the reasoning behind his support for the introduction of the subject.

His argument that “politically, it’s not helping when it’s made too much of a fuss, because it fits the Malay right-wing argument that the Chinese and non-Malays refuse to understand and look down on everything Islam” smacks of crude political opportunism.

Members of the public who see him as a potential future leader expect him to take on and not surrender to Malay right wing opinions that are based on irrational and mischievous thinking.

Rafizi should know that the religious and socio-cultural conflict in the country is not because the non-Malays refuse to understand and look down on everything that is Islamic. The great majority of Malaysians respect the faith of their neighbours even if they may not understand it. What they resent and oppose is the state-sponsored assertion of dominance and superiority of a religion that is different or not their own.

I am sure Malay Muslims will similarly resent and resist any action to marginalize their religion and culture in any country in the world. In this particular case, we are witnessing the use of the public sphere to force feed the young with perspectives that are biased to one religion and narrowly selective.

During the past two decades there has been a concerted attempt by Umno leaders using the bureaucracy to reconfigure Malaysian and world history as well as civilizational studies taught in schools to fit in with their “ketuanan Melayu”, “ketuanan Islam” and “ketuanan Umno” mindset.

Surely Rafizi is fully aware of these efforts – including those linked with the BTN scandal – which are derived from unjust and unacceptable notions of Bumiputera and Muslim privilege, superiority and dominance.

Surely he does not believe the lame justification put out by Muhyiddin Yassin, the Minister of Education in Parliament that the introduction of the required course is simply to streamline the requirement of public and private institutions of higher education. If he did so, he must have been born yesterday.

That Umno has been able to succeed in the past with the introduction of one policy after another to mould the educational system to conform to its political agenda speaks volumes about the so-called neutrality and professionalism of the Education Ministry, the craven non-UMNO leaders in the government as well as about the degree of ignorance and apathy amongst Malaysian parents.

An awakened public

The Malay and non-Muslim public have now awoken. During the past two years we have seen various NGOs, including the multi-racial and multi-religious grouping of “Kempen Sejarah Malaysia Sebenar” (KemSMS) raise their voices for the overhaul of the current history syllabus and text books. They have also requested for delay in the planned implementation of History as a compulsory subject at the secondary level (see http://english.cpiasia.net/index.php?option=com_content&view=article&id=2179:reclaiming-our-truly-malaysian-history&catid=141:lim-teck-ghees-contribution&Itemid=93). It is not clear to what extent their proposals and recommendations have been accepted and incorporated into the report of the special committee studying the history text books and history syllabus for secondary schools curricula. The important thing is that they have done their homework and spoken up.

A similar outcry and close scrutiny of TITAS is needed. Under the guise of instilling “national patriotism” and “nationalism”, it is likely that TITAS is part of the overall game plan of Umno in cahoots with our education officialdom to ensure that the party’s version of politically correct history, religious and civilizational studies is imprinted into the minds of our young generation.

If TITAS goes through as a compulsory requirement, non-Malays and non-Muslims will not be the only losers. Young Malays and the Muslims themselves too will lose out as they imbibe and internalize a propagandistic and truncated version of the world’s religions and civilizations which will highlight the self -proclaimed superiority of Islam and the shortcomings of all other religious and civilizational systems. This can only diminish and impoverish rather than nourish their minds, values and behaviour.

This is why Rafizi needs to reconsider his stand – if not for the sake of the non-Malays, at least for the sake of the Malays. This is why other stakeholders need to speak out and demand to know the truth behind the proposed course and put its contents, the recommended text books, and other requirements under the microscope of public scrutiny.

  1. #1 by Noble House on Thursday, 18 July 2013 - 3:18 am

    Is the Honorable Member of Pandan implying that there should be a distinction between the various methods of communicating ideas? Then last of all they tell us to shut up and say we are enjoying it?

    The evil that is in the world always comes of ignorance, and good intentions may do as much harm as malevolence, if they lack understanding. On the whole, I believe men are more good than bad; that, however, isn’t the real point. But they are more or less ignorant, and it is that we call vice or virtue; the most incorrigible vice being that of an ignorance which fancies it knows everything and therefore claims for itself the right to make a kill.

    You will not change the world if education does not reach the heart.

  2. #2 by PRmaju on Thursday, 18 July 2013 - 8:01 am

    Rafizi also have to yield to the kampong MAlay mentality. The simple kampong MAlay mentality is such that anyone who appear to to defend for Islam is a a good person, no matter what ! The kampong Malay mentality is such even the crooks are stealing billions of RM from their future generations, even the crooks and criminals are commiting treason to their country, as long as they appear to be defending Islam, it is ok, all crimes are forgotten .

  3. #3 by drngsc on Thursday, 18 July 2013 - 8:24 am

    Rafizi must have been very tired. Doing so much investigative journalism.
    Maybe he did not realise what he was saying.

    It is often under stress that leaders show their true colours.
    Time will tell.

  4. #4 by omeqiu on Thursday, 18 July 2013 - 2:36 pm

    Rafizi, you are toast!

  5. #5 by sheriff singh on Thursday, 18 July 2013 - 4:06 pm

    Maybe something deep inside him has reminded him where he came from that when push comes to shove, he has to make his stand and stand with the tribe. Like that ‘royal’ ex-politician who changed his views on things and now takes pot-shots at his former colleagues as a past time. Blood is thicker than water.

  6. #6 by sheriff singh on Thursday, 18 July 2013 - 4:16 pm

    Maybe Mary Yap Kain Ching, the Deputy Education Minister, is looking into this TITAS policy thingy and will put things right. Give her plenty of time.

  7. #7 by good coolie on Thursday, 18 July 2013 - 10:25 pm

    I haven’t seen the syllabus, but I shouldn’t be surprised if again, Non-Muslims are asked to accept only one version of history and religious discourse. Worse, Non-Muslims could be asked to accept distorted versions of their own (Non-Muslim0 religious belief. Wait and See.

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