Jawi and khat not Malaysia’s identity, says non-Muslim group

A section on khat writing is to be included in the Bahasa Melayu textbook for vernacular schools from next year.

PETALING JAYA: An interfaith group today challenged the education ministry’s statement that the Malay-Arabic calligraphy of khat is part of Malaysia’s identity, saying there is no historical backing for this claim.

The Malaysian Consultative Council of Buddhism, Christianity, Hinduism, Sikhism and Taoism (MCCBCHST) also said the role of national identity is played by the Malay language, not the Jawi script.

It said Jawi had not been in the mainstream even for the Malays for the last 50 years at least.

“Khat is Arabic calligraphy and has never been part of Malaysia’s identity but is an Islamic identity,” it said in a statement.

“Khat will have to be taught using the Jawi script. We also know that our national language is Bahasa Melayu and not Jawi, thus it… raises (the) question of motive.”

MCCBCHST added that teaching khat may contravene Article 12(3) of the Federal Constitution which states that no person shall be required to receive instruction or take part in any ceremony or act of worship of a religion other than his own.

It said the khat calligraphy is closely related to Islamic teachings as it uses verses from the Quran.

It also challenged the ministry’s argument that khat appears on the coat of arms for Malaysia and on Malaysian banknotes.

“(This) is irrelevant,” it said. “No one has ever objected to it, and it is a different issue altogether.”

It urged the ministry to postpone the implementation of khat, scheduled for next year, until all concerns raised by stakeholders are addressed.

It also questioned the ministry’s assurance that students will not be tested on it, given that Bahasa Melayu is a compulsory paper.

“Moreover, assurances however well, will remain assurances unless there is a law passed to cover them.”

MCCBCHST said it would be more prudent to include khat in the art subject which could also include calligraphic styles used by other communities.

It added that there are more important issues to tackle in terms of education, including scientific and technological advances.

“We should raise the standard of Bahasa Melayu without forgetting the importance of English.”