PROMINENT academician Dr Lim Swee Tin was recently reported as saying that the confusion about “jawi khat” was largely because of a lack of understanding of the “real” substance of the matter; yet people were making comments about it. Recall the saying: The wise speak because they have something to say, fools because they have to say something. In this case, we had more of the latter, thus the farce.
Lim, with more than 40 years of experience in education and being a prolific writer of articles on national culture and language, said that the confusion has been blown out of proportion. Some have even ventured to unnecessarily link it to “Islamisation” as a convenient excuse to reject the script by blemishing it with religious and racial sentiments. In so doing, they put up trivial arguments, with little knowledge of the subject, which were sensationalised. In this sense, a whiff of “racism” in the air could not be mistaken. Not surprisingly, it continues to ding-dong involving the cabinet yet again.
It boggles the mind why academics or experts like Lim were not engaged earlier to preempt any potential misunderstanding. Such personalities are more than able to act as beacons of knowledge given their intimate association with the cultures of Malaysia and could have been the voice of reason to keep things in perspective. How I wish the late Tan Sri Prof Khoo Kay Kim was still around to share his wisdom.
Unfortunately, there was a huge oversight that created unwarranted speculation and brought the issue to a boil. Under the circumstances, it could be that the experts were deemed as a “liability” by their own community in case they delivered a viewpoint that was not in keeping with what is required of them?
Or could it be that they are not “recognised” as spokespersons of their community, indicating deeper ramifications to the whole issue beyond what can be seen.
The above is probable going by a video clip where one of the speakers in articulating the Rome Statute categorically admitted not being “accepted” to represent the community for some reason. And it is not an isolated case as there are others who were similarly “ostracised” for being more Malaysian than being identified with their race.
With this background, what Lim alluded to makes sense implying that those who speak favourably about the jawi script – even though based on their true personal experiences – will not be kindly reciprocated. Never mind if they are veterans and senior party stalwarts usually held in high regard. In other words, any issue, even though not properly appreciated, could be whipped up out of proportion to meet an agenda, intentional or otherwise. The sheer act of filtering and distancing oneself from the experiences of others – including those of the same ethnic origin – amply demonstrates the “hostile” reactions causing an even prolonged hostility.
This then led to other counterpoints suggesting that as much as there is a scare (perceived or otherwise) towards what is termed as “Islamisation” what are the chances of other foreign ideologies like “communism” being viewed in the same way? This possibility cannot simply be ruled out. There are numerous experiences drawn from the Malayan insurgency. The influence it had on the local community and the related education system is well documented. If the scripts so intimately intertwined to such an ideology is regarded as benign for education, must a few pages of the jawi khat be so different? Why cry “Islamisation” and not “communism”? Especially, when the former is barely understood as observed by the experts!
The issue could have been avoided if we Malaysians were more Malaysian rather than identify ourselves with race.
With some four decades of experience in education, the writer believes that “another world is possible”. Comments: firstname.lastname@example.org