🙏The Khat controversy – Azly Rahman’s post.
COMMENT | Some say the issue of mandating the teaching of the Islamic scriptural artform of “khat” in the curriculum is a molehill. I say, yes, it is. A molehill sitting on top of a mountain of radical Islamism.
My question: Are the leaders who wish to preserve “khat” good enough to fight corruption that is destroying Malay-Islamic culture? We must believe that the survival of a nation not only lies in the writing script, but primarily with cognitive ability amidst tides of mediocrity.
As I have said in my previous column on the link between anthropology and education, even the political leader needs training in Diversity and Cross-Cultural Management. A minister of Education from an all-Malay party will naturally push the agenda for an all-Malay exclusivity. Not good.
Spend time strengthening English Language skills in schools — even for teachers. Less time arguing.
Behind the backdrop of “anti-liberalism”, khat is the molehill atop a mountain of Wahabi-Salafi radicalism. Khat can be taught alongside other scripts and artform, to have children be introduced to multilingual scripts.
Though PH won with the blessings of a multicultural vote, the core ideology remains Ketuanan Melayu-Islam, not Multiculturalism. Progress or digress in Education is dependent upon who is at the helm and what ideology is being pushed.
First, it was the use of “Allah” in the Malay Bible. It was a huge controversy. Then came the proclamation that schools can be good “medan dakwah”. Later came the adoration of Zakir Naik (above). It is not about “khat”. It’s about the expansion of the ecology of creeping and creepy Islamization engineered by the Ministry of Education.
There is something called “penmanship” if you wish to foster the skill of beautiful handwriting. Khat is Islamic calligraphy and the non-Muslims feel that this is not a welcoming activity, understandably. Islamization comes with subtle replacement of themes and curricular materials, from one ideology to another.
A curriculum can never be neutral. There is always an agenda run by those who author it. Malaysia needs a multicultural curricular agenda, not more attempts to Islamize. I wish the MoE knows this simple idea of the ideology of schooling.
I do believe that policymakers in the Ministry need Cross-cultural Training urgently. What if the Buddhist teachers start insisting that children learn to create Mandalas? Will the Islamists in the Ministry object?
Too much time is wasted not teaching the STEM subjects in English. Whereas the MoE is busy Malayo-Islamizing the schools. This is a wrong move in our national agenda for education.
On those banknotes are not “khat” They are simple Jawi prints. I know Jawi and I know the difference. Khat is Islamic/religious calligraphy. Not part of “Malay culture.” Wrong claim made here.
Don’t get me wrong. I like looking at “khat-work” It is beautiful. So is Chinese calligraphy, Korean script, Egyptian hieroglyphics, and the beautiful graffiti in the Bronx and Harlem, New York city.
Why not teach more coding skills? More English skills? Good voting skills? And those Industry 4.0 skills you talk about? Not frills. The idea of “radically revamping” education for a new society does not seem to be of interest to this government.
Today under PH, race-based parties are strengthened and a new Indian party is created. What did the people vote for?
The Pakatan Harapan government is pushing for a new brand and agenda for the Islamization of schools, detrimental to multiculturalism. Difficult to have a ministry that is not composed of philosophers and anthropologists of education. Dangerous, in fact.
The goal of the Ministry of Education seems clear now, after one year of promising progressive reform: To radically Islamize the schools through culture and the curriculum. This is a wrong move. In schools we need to get students to study and discuss life of great scientists of the Eastern and Western world. Liberal ones, especially. Why not create secular-liberal spaces in classroom learning, not more religious-indoctrinating semiotics of learning?
Back to the khat controversy.
Seni Khat is essentially an Islamic artform used to promote the Quran. That’s why non-Muslims are questioning. Give children time to be innovative, to read more, to have intelligent conversations. Not more drills of frill re: khat and Jawi.
The issues discussed in Malaysian education continue to centre around race, religion. Not cognition, excellence, and futurism.
Why not teach Malay, Chinese, Tamil, The Bronx, Sumerian and Ancient Egyptian calligraphy then? Not khat. It is a form of religious calligraphy, Jawi is cultural appropriation script.
In all these quarrels, one thing is clear: how poor our decision-makers are in cultural management that till today the same old ethnic-division-nonsense is our politics.
Therefore, we have this controversy: to teach or not to teach “khat”. The larger issue is: how do we ensure cultural diversity is promoted and the curriculum is made to serve the idea of an inclusive education, in a country rich in cultural diversity, but poor in managing and celebrating possibilities in newer hybridizations of artifacts of cultural ingenuity.