PETALING JAYA: Saying there is a lack of a “shared experience” among the different communities, Perlis mufti Mohd Asri Zainul Abidin has urged the Pakatan Harapan government to make it compulsory for all Malaysians to attend the first six years of national school.
“The absence of a common educational background and shared experience at an early age makes it easier for animosity to spread compared to friendship,” Asri wrote in a letter addressed to Prime Minister Dr Mahathir Mohamad.
He said many Malaysian children go through schooling systems that do not allow them to mingle with people from different communities.
“This is especially from the first year of school, when they receive education that has been habitually exclusive to one race or religion,” he said, adding that a lack of inter-cultural experience would be reflected in one’s adult life.
“When they become leaders and citizens, their thinking is limited to only a certain community,” he said.
He said going through a common education system in the first six years of schooling could foster better interaction between races.
“Children are like a white cloth, there is no racism in them. There is only humanity that is born out of their human nature,” he wrote.
Asri’s letter comes after Mahathir recently lamented that national schools were increasingly becoming like religious schools.
“They are all learning about religion and not learning anything else. They make good ulama. When you have too many ulama, they differ from each other and mislead their followers and quarrel with each other,” the prime minister said on Friday, adding that the government would revise the curriculum so that students could do well in subjects that could be useful for them in seeking jobs.
Asri suggested that religious subjects could be taught after school hours, adding that funding for the classes could also come from the zakat (alms).
“This way, Islamic education will be more effective without disrupting the character of the national school that is the domain for people of all races and religions,” he said.
Asri added that non-Muslims should also be allowed to hold their religious classes during these hours.