Dong Zong denies it is racist

PETALING JAYA: Chinese educationist groups Dong Zong and Jiao Zong today denied Prime Minister Dr Mahathir Mohamad’s accusation that Dong Zong is racist for objecting to the introduction of khat in the Year 4 Bahasa Melayu syllabus for vernacular schools.

The two groups, collectively known as Dong Jiao Zong (DJZ), noted that they were not the only groups which opposed the teaching of khat but that this was the general view of non-Muslim communities in the peninsula, Sabah and Sarawak.

“Not all Malays agree with the move,” they added in a statement, citing former minister Rafidah Aziz’s statement that the Jawi calligraphy should be an elective subject and not part of the curriculum in schools.

They said objections to khat were due to the “failure” of education ministry officers taking into account views of the non-Malay communities, including DJZ, the Tamil Foundation and the Malaysian Consultative Council on Buddhism, Christianity, Hinduism, Sikhism and Taoism.

“Dong Jiao Zong urges Dr Mahathir to listen to all sides in the khat issue and not deny any non-Muslim views (from being heard),” they said, adding that they were ready to state their case directly to Mahathir.

The government must ensure that important decisions that involved race, religion and culture were only made after engagements with the relevant groups and communities, they said.

Education Minister Maszlee Malik, in particular, should form a consultation body consisting of all religion and language-interest bodies so that controversies such as the khat issue would not arise again, they added.

DJZ said their position had always been to develop the teaching of the national language and encourage respect and mutual understanding among the different races and a rejection of any effort to degrade any race.

To that end, they have formed a committee to carry out activities for the involvement of students from different school streams.

DJZ said khat had been taught in the Islamic Studies subject from Year Four onwards for Muslims, who had also studied Jawi writing since Year One.

“What is the rationale in teaching khat in Bahasa Melayu (to) non-Muslims who are not aware of Jawi writing and who now need to study its calligraphy?” DJZ asked.

DJZ said they appreciated Jawi‘s cultural and historic background, noting the government’s efforts to protect the art form, but they urged the government not to include khat in Bahasa Melayu in vernacular schools.

They said their objection to khat as a preaching tool and part of Islamisation had been shown to be true by remarks by the president of missionary group Yayasan Dakwah Islamiah Malaysia (Yadim), Nik Omar Nik Abdul Aziz.

Nik Omar reportedly said that he supported the government’s effort to introduce Jawi and khat to “increase the understanding of youths on Jawi and the Arab language as well as make it easy for them to learn and understand the Al-Quran.”

Saying the non-Muslim community understood Muslim love for Jawi and khat, DJZ urged Yadim and other parties to improve the mastery of Jawi only for Muslim children and to teach it during Islamic studies.

“Teaching khat in the Bahasa Melayu subject not only worries non-Muslim parents in vernacular schools but also non-Muslim parents in national schools,” they said, adding this did not adhere to the Quranic principle that there should be no instance of force in Islam.