Of khat, Dong Zong and racial unity

KUALA LUMPUR: The issue of ‘khat’, from being about calligraphy or writing to be introduced in schools to being about racial unity, has been successfully manipulated by various parties to eventually become a hot racial topic.

As a multi-racial nation celebrating its 62nd independence this year, in which direction are Malaysians heading in the quest to develop the country together?

Social science lecturer at Universiti Sains Malaysia (USM), Prof Dr P Sivamurugan said differences among the races should be celebrated and not made a point of misunderstanding.

The 2016 National Day Patriotic Icon said, the differences should be treated as an asset, not a liability and there needed to be some form of sacrifice and compromise by all parties.

“If Malaysians could embrace these three values better — understanding, mutual respect and accepting one another — I believe that issues involving Dong Zong, ‘khat’ and the road rage in Bangi last Saturday, would not have happened or spun into a racial one.

“We should be able to differentiate between human and political values because if we were to politicise everything, we would be facing racial tension to no end,” said Sivamurugan.

Before this, Dong Zong chairman Tan Tai Kim was reported as saying that the Chinese education association would launch a campaign to collect signatures in protest of ‘khat’ learning in vernacular schools, insisting that the government’s move to introduce the writing in schools was a form of ‘Islamisation’.

In response, Prime Minister Dr Mahathir Mohamad on Tuesday labelled the organisation ‘racist’ for disagreeing with any previous government decision including the introduction of the Vision School (Sekolah Wawasan) which places Chinese schools, Tamil schools and Sekolah Kebangsaan under one roof.

The issue of ‘khat’ has become controversial and received a number of reactions, especially on social media, which clearly shows that trust deficit among the races still exists in the country.

Education Minister Maszlee Malek had previously denied that the government was trying to introduce an Islamisation approach and described Jawi learning as an attempt to honour the old Malay literary heritage.

Institute of Ethnic Studies (Kita) and Institute of Malay World and Civilisation (ATMA) principal research fellow Prof Datuk Dr Teo Kok Seong did not deny that every episode that had to do with the issue of ‘khat’ was not good for the unity of the country, which was not in a solid state to begin with. – Bernama