ISSN 2330-717X

To Avoid Threats To May 13, 1969 Again, Malaysia Must Postpone The Jawi Lessons – OpEd


A major racial-religious conflict is brewing again, as Malaysia ushers into 2020. The nation will never be ready to accept changes that will make us respect, appreciate, and learn about the beauty of each other’s culture. The political parties do not want to have the people understand the power of multiculturalism, pluralism, and liberal ideas that will bring us to the next level of a national sense of identity.

I do not think Dong Jiao Zong is against the Jawi script Jawi. It is looking at it as a molehill sitting on top of a mountain, possibly a volcano of Islamic fundamentalism brewed with a new spirit of “Ketuanan Melayu”. The non-Malays are worried of the future of their children, with the inroads the Ministry of Education is making to cement the ideology of race politics. That’s the fear.

Those three pages

I saw the three pages of the exercises on Jawi script. I am worried, from the point of view of an educationist who designs curriculum as well, and who teaches philosophies of education too.

I think these pages should be removed, or put in the Appendix, or even brought to the Art department as enrichment exercises.

No critical thinkingnor creative thinking is infused in these lessons. These are just pages of “what is Jawi”. So what? Students are just told that you can find “Jawi” in banknotes, in the national coat of arms, etc. And then what”? Where is the higher-order thinking skills, or the “hots” the Ministry of Education has always been talking about proudly?

Our children need more that just the lowest level of thinkingin the Bloom’s Taxonomy. Aren’t we dealing with the minds of millennials? The new Generation post-Z? The mind of the Malaysian child that needs more that just mundane, dead-end exercises that do not bring higher values in thinking.

Is this how we design our curriculum and use them to guide our lessons and write our textbooks? We have to go beyond what we are seeing in those textbook pages.

Long way to multiculturalism

If we want to create a thinking society, we must have thoughtful education that celebrates the beauty of learning and frame knowledge and understanding not based on the paradigm of this or that “Maqasid Shariah” or whatever fancy name you call the society of “Rahmatul Lil Alamin”.

We must go back to scientific thinking and reasoning to craft a philosophy of education and pedagogy of teaching and learning, so that we will have the society of thinkers and doers we wish to have.

Right now, things are not moving toward that direction. So much time is invested in turning schools into medan dakwah (theatre of the absurd of Wahabbi thinking), and medan politik (political theatre) to continue dividing society so that they may make enemies out of one another.

I am fortunate to have taught amongst numerous courses, Cultural Studies, Cultural Perspectives, Cultural Management, Philosophy of Religion and World Religions, to be able to appreciate the beauty of cultural philosophies.

I have sat in a Hindu puja ceremony, in a Passover session, saw my Hindu friend cremated, visited my dying Catholic friend and eventually went to his wake and funeral, visited countless churches, had my commencement (graduation ceremony) in Cathedral of St. John the Divine by Columbia University, visited a holy site of the Oneida Indian tribe in upstate New York, sent my students to all kinds of temples to appreciate and study religious differences — to the mosque, synagogue, Sikh temple, Buddhist temple, a Shaolin Temple, and even a Scientology church in New York city — to see the variety of human spiritual experience.

Take out the three pages, I’d say. It might save us from further racial conflict blow out of proportion. In fact, our race relations is getting worse. With the emergence and infiltration of Wahabi-ism.

That’s why the non-Malay, non-Muslims are unhappy. It is not about the harmless script called “Jawi.”

Dr. Azly Rahman

Dr. Azly Rahman

Dr. Azly Rahman grew up in a Malay village in Johor Bahru, Malaysia, and holds a Columbia University (New York City) doctorate in International Education Development and Masters degrees in six areas: Education, International Affairs, Peace Studies, Communication, CNF/Memoir Writing, and Fiction. He has written more than 350 analyses/essays on Malaysia. His 30 years of teaching experience in Malaysia and the United States spans over a wide range of subjects, from elementary to graduate education. He has edited and authored eight books; Multiethnic Malaysia: Past, Present, Future (2009), Thesis on Cyberjaya: Hegemony and Utopianism in a Southeast Asian State (2012), The Allah Controversy and Other Essays on Malaysian Hypermodernity (2013), Dark Spring: Essays on the Ideological Roots of Malaysia's General Elections-13 (2013), a first Malay publication Kalimah Allah Milik Siapa?: Renungan dan Nukilan Tentang Malaysia di Era Pancaroba (2014), and Controlled Chaos: Essays on Mahathirism, Multimedia Super Corridor and Malaysia's 'New Politics' (2014), One Nation Under God, Bipolar (2015), and High Hopes to Shattered Dreams: Second Mahathirist Revolution (2020). He currently resides in the United States where he teaches courses in Education, Philosophy, Psychology, Cultural Studies, Political Science, Economics, and American Studies. He is currently completing his ninth and tenth books, remembering a Gift, (on Gifted and Talented Education in Malaysia,) honoring a prominent educator, and a memoir of growing up in a Malay village in Johor Bahru of the sixties. More writings here: and here: He tweets at

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