By Siti Kasim
Dear Minister of Education, Dr Maszlee,
I have been very vocal in opposing your appointment and in wanting Tun Dr Mahathir to retain the post of MoE.
Now that you have been sworn in and have reported for duty, I believe it is incumbent upon you as a public servant to assuage valid and serious concerns of private citizens such as myself with respect to your appointment. Even more so when the opposition is substantial as reflected by the numbers garnered in the related petitions.
Dear Dr Maszlee,
Your manner and answer to a reporter who asked for a response to concerns of “your religious leanings” that “being religious is not a crime” is spurious, evasive and dismissive. It’s true that being religious is not a crime unless one is from a different sect from your own belief, like the Shia and the Ahmadiyah, right?
Anyway, it is not about you being religious; it is about your religious leanings, ie. the mindset you bring in making your decisions as MoE. Your religiousity is irrelevant.
Our concern is over what we perceive as an Islamist bent in the mindset you bring to the job. You have been quoted with respect to Zakir Naik that “I urge non-Muslims to hear him out to get a clearer picture on Islam.” (FMT – April 11, 2016).
I am a Muslim, and I would not recommend that with respect to the extremist preacher, terrorist sympathiser and advocate. In fact, our new government of which you are a part should deport this person as soon as possible from our lands. This concern is serious. We are concerned that your understanding of Islam and its values align with someone like Zakir Naik. This does not bode well for someone entrusted with the education of our children – the future of our nation.
Please assure us that your religious leanings are nowhere near what the quote indicates, and that you will ensure that religious elements will not carry weight in your decisions as minister of education.
Secondly, we have yet to hear anything substantive from you with respect to the overt and overbearing religious-centric character of our current education system, curriculum and teachers.
The situation we have is chronic and has been going on for at least two decades. It has diluted the quality and substance of the education provided and has also resulted in a significant pool of unemployable graduates coming out of our system.
1. Imagine: a Standard One Sekolah Kebangsaan Malay pupil attends five hours per week of religious and related classes while science only warrants one hour and 30 minutes per week. Are we educating or indoctrinating our children? What are you going to do to correct this horrendous and appalling imbalance?
2. Do you know that Malay pupils are also pressured to attend religious classes after/before school, depending on whether they attend the morning or afternoon session? In some states, this is mandatory. Do you know how they are taught in these schools? Do you realise what impact this has on the mindset of these pupils with so much indoctrination going on? Is it any wonder that our youths these days are more radicalised and polarised from our multiethnic society? What do you intend to do about this?
3. Our national schools are now notorious for all sorts of religious nonsense – harassing and pressuring Malay girls to wear the tudung, putting up mock Kaabah and even mock graves, closing canteens during Ramadan, segregation of children, etc. This is not to mention universities engaging in developing hysteria kits and seminars on neraka. How do you intend to ensure that we are rid of extremist influences in all our schools and universities?
Dear Dr Maszlee,
I hope you take my concerns seriously as I am not the only one. We, the rakyat, appreciate the new openness shown by our elected representatives so far. We are looking forward to also hear substantive answers from you.
Thank you for reading, and before I forget – congratulations on your appointment.
Siti Kasim is a lawyer and activist.
The views expressed are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of FMT.