What education reform, Ramasamy asks after exam question on Zakir Naik

Penang Deputy Chief Minister II P Ramasamy.

PETALING JAYA: DAP’s P Ramasamy has delivered a stinging rebuke of the Pakatan Harapan (PH)-led government in the wake of the uproar over an examination question appearing to praise Islamic preacher Dr Zakir Naik, saying Putrajaya lacks the leadership and dynamism needed to reform public universities.

In a statement, Ramasamy who is Penang deputy chief minister II said the issue was not Naik himself, but rather “the pathetic state of public universities”.

He said the incident reflected poorly on the state of academic knowledge, lecturers, course content and the nature of public universities.

He said it also highlighted PH’s inability to wake these institutions from their “slumber”.

“Education Minister Maszlee Malik failed to take the initiative to reform public universities. These universities are merely exaggerated versions of secondary schools.

“While they might not have taken up the global challenge of science and technology, they are certainly preoccupied with missionary work and the exaltation of criminals who pretend to be icons.”

The exam question, set by Universiti Malaysia Perlis in an Ethnic Relations paper, had referred to Naik as “an icon of the Islamic world”.

The multiple-choice question read: “Zakir Naik is one of the icons of the Islamic world. He is very active in spreading true Islam and following the Quran and Sunnah of Rasulullah SAW. He is able to reason and to answer every question that is asked to him. However, in Malaysia, he is no longer allowed to deliver his preaching. In your opinion, as a Malaysian, why does this happen?”

Students were asked to choose one of four answers:

1) Malaysians do not bother to receive information;

2) Malaysians are sensitive and feel threatened for no reason;

3) Malaysians just follow the crowd without verifying any information; or

4) Malaysians are ignorant about their own religions.

Ramasamy said although the question was on Naik, it was set by the academic staff responsible for teaching the course.

Noting that the controversial preacher enjoyed some influence in Perlis, he said it was no surprise that the question had been set in a course on ethnic relations in the state.

He added that the question was biased in favour of Naik, and made no mention of why the preacher is wanted by the authorities in India, his alleged crimes, Malaysia’s reasons for sheltering him, and why he had been banned from giving public talks.

“If the question or questions on Naik omitted these, then the students would not be given the information for them to make the right choices,” he said.