KUALA LUMPUR: Muslim moderates have proposed that the Education Ministry include topics such as gender equality, emotional management and the contributions of non-Malays towards Malaysia’s independence in the current syllabus to combat racism and religious extremism.
Activist Syed Saddiq Abdul Rahman said the introduction of such topics in classrooms was also one way to produce critical thinkers and prevent people from following one another blindly.
“Schools should move away from being too academic and be more morally fortified.
“For example, history. We only briefly discuss the contributions of non-Malays during independence in comparison with other countries.
“In the United States, they have special modules dedicated to contributions of African Americans during World War 1 and 2,” he said during a forum called “Unstoppable Monsters: Defeating Extremism Through Power of Ideas”.
The forum was organised by Komuniti Muslim Malaysia (KMU) in collaboration with the US Embassy and the Young Southeast Asian Leaders Initiative.
Education, Syed Saddiq said, does not breed racism but the country’s failure to use education as a tool to unite people has been ignored.
He also admitted that during his schooling days, he was sometimes a “bigot, sexist and a homophobic person”.
“Previously, if I was in an argument with any non-Malay and if I was about to lose an argument, I will tell them that this is my country. This was the only way for me to feel superior.”
Which is why, Syed Saddiq said history books must include the contributions of non-Malays in the struggle for independence so that the young would have access to information that is downplayed at the moment.
Sisters in Islam (SIS) Assistant Programme Manager Azareena Aziz said youths need to be exposed to topics revolving around emotional management, self-empowerment and gender equality.
“This is not only for girls but boys. There is a need to know right from wrong. They need to know ways to respect each other,” she said, adding that students should have positive values and be good at studies.
Syed Saddiq and Azareena’s comments come a day after Education Minister Mahdzir Khalid gave an assurance that national schools will not be made a breeding ground for Islamic extremism.
He said his ministry will not allow national schools to become “too Islamic”, and cited a report that said non-Muslim parents were uncomfortable with the overt religiosity in some schools.