From: Rehan Ahmad, via email
Recently the chairman of the Committee to Promote Inter Religious Understanding and Harmony, Azman Amin Hassan, suggested the introduction of a new subject in the Ministry of Education’s syllabus. This subject for the time being is referred to as “Interfaith Understanding”.
Intellectual wisdom applauds any effort to enhance unity between Malaysian citizens. However a bigger question mark lurks on the execution of such a subject.
Islamic Studies or Pendidikan Islam has been and still is taught in all public schools up to Form 5. Despite 11 years of learning this subject, for most Muslim students, the subject is not available in SPM, PMR, PT3, UPSR.
How would the introduction of a new subject fare? The Islamic Studies subject is not taken seriously because it is not present in the board exams; it may be taught in the spirit of the federal constitution albeit not fully.
The absence from board exams means less emphasis is put on studying the subject. More emphasis is put on exam subjects. Shouldn’t we enhance something that already exists rather than introduce another “decoration” piece merely for the sake of it?
Why not allow non-Muslim pupils to take Islamic Studies as an elective subject? Wouldn’t that be better? It would not cost taxpayers any money to conduct feasibility studies, hire new teachers, prepare new syllabuses and other expenses that come with introducing a new subject.
Why not expand on something that already exists? This way, the students that want to understand Islam and the Malay community better can take this subject as an option. Islam is after all the religion of the Federation and the religion of the majority. Why introduce a new subject that might or might not serve its purpose?
It would be better to open up Islamic Studies to students of other religions. In order to enhance the enthusiasm, Islamic Studies should be made a compulsory subject in board exams for Muslims.
There is always a step to be taken in order to learn about one another, Muslim students should also be given the chance to attend Tamil and Mandarin classes in schools where they are offered. This will allow everybody a chance to learn about the culture of other communities in Malaysia.
Because a Malay is constitutionally a Muslim, in order to understand the Malays better, the non-Muslims can take up Islamic Studies, and Muslim students can take up language classes.
The suggestion by JKMPKA (assuming the chairman represents the committee) is good, but he can do better. We know how feasibility studies are not really feasible and can come with a very large price tag too.
Besides, don’t we all live in a multicultural nation, and shouldn’t we all know how to speak each others’ language and know our cultures better?
Rehan Ahmad is an FMT reader
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