PETALING JAYA: After a question in a Universiti Malaysia Perlis (UniMAP) examination paper praised controversial Islamic preacher Dr Zakir Naik as an “icon”, an MP today said this was not the only cause for concern as there were other controversial questions in the test.
Klang MP Charles Santiago highlighted two questions which he said were offensive to the Indian community and to those who were opposed to the introduction of Jawi in schools.
The first question read: ‘’These people are dark-skinned people and they are also found in Asian countries such as Malaysia and Indonesia. What nation is this?”
The multiple-choice answers given were: 1) Negroid; 2) Red Indian; 3) Indians; 4) Bushman.
The other question read: “Previously, Jawi writing was a hot topic of discussion in the country. It has opened the eyes of many to express their views and opinions on the matter. Even some politicians are involved in this. Why is this wrong in the eyes of certain parties?”
Students were asked to choose a combination or all of the following answers: 1) It is related to Islam; 2) They try to show the power they have; 3) They love it; 4) The desire to study is deep within (them).
Santiago slammed Education Minister Maszlee Malik for failing to reform the education system, adding that he had also failed to ensure public institutions did not “further fan elements of racism”.
“Something has gone terribly wrong with our society. We have become unbelievably racist and xenophobic.
“And this is not the first time that ridiculous exam questions reflect the current mindset,” he said in a statement today.
He also took the university to task, accusing it of feigning ignorance and hiding behind “the pretext of launching an investigation”.
“This has dangerous consequences and therefore UniMAP, the lecturer who set those questions, top officials in the education ministry and especially Maszlee must all be held responsible.”
On Monday, the university responded to the uproar over the question which referred to Naik, saying it would review the vetting procedures of exam questions for the particular course.
It said this was to ensure lecturers were more proactive regarding the sensitivities of race and religion in formulating exam questions, adding that the issue was under investigation.
The education ministry’s Higher Education Department seemed to wash its hands of the issue, saying universities were given autonomy over their academic programmes.
The department said it would not interfere with the implementation of their academic programmes, as it upheld the concept of “autonomy with accountability”.