Malay anger over Chinese congress will intensify, says academic

(FMT) – An academic has predicted a buildup in the Malay retaliation to Chinese opposition to the teaching of the Jawi script in schools.

Commenting on yesterday’s statement from Universiti Pendidikan Sultan Idris about its intention to revive the use of Jawi at its two campuses, Teo Kok Seong of Universiti Kebangsaan Malaysia said it could be a signal of Malay anger over the Dong Zong education group’s insistence on proceeding with a congress of Chinese NGOs to discuss the introduction of the script in vernacular schools.

He said he would not be surprised to hear of more manifestations of such anger in the coming days.

In his statement, UPSI vice-chancellor Mohammad Shatar Sabran said his university would help the education ministry empower Jawi by intensifying its effort to promote it as a national heritage.

Teo acknowledged that Shatar did not sound angry, but said the statement was a form of indirect retaliation, which was the kind the prime minister had warned of.

“Dong Zong and others who want to hold the Dec 28 congress are undermining the harmony of the country,” he said.

“If they go ahead with it, it may be seen as a provocation, an attempt to cause trouble.”

He noted that some Malay groups were already reminding the Chinese of the 1969 race riots.

Yesterday, Pertubuhan Kebajikan Darul Islah Malaysia lodged a police report against Dong Zong leaders for alleged sedition and called for the cancellation of the congress.

Teo noted that the government had already given in to Dong Zong by halving the weight of Jawi in the Malay syllabus.

“Furthermore, it is optional,” he said. “If they don’t want to teach it, they don’t have to do it.

“Why do they need to have a congress on the issue? What Dong Zong is doing is not good.”

He said some Chinese groups held “imagined fears” of Islamisation creeping into the education system.

He criticised some Chinese NGOs for wanting Malay to be taught “on their own terms and conditions”.

“When the government wants to teach a higher level of Malay in Chinese schools, they will say it would affect the identity of the Chinese schools. They will resist.”

The Parent Action Group for Education has also reacted to UPSI’s statement. Its secretary, Tunku Munawirah Putra, said the group understood the need to support government initiatives to preserve Jawi as a national heritage.

However, she added, a more important agenda for UPSI would be to ensure it becomes a prestigious university for teacher education.