By Dean Johns
Jul 17, 2013
Given the system of universal education it inherited from its former British colonial masters, Malaysia could and should be a model of learning and enlightenment for the Muslim-majority countries of the world.
God knows there’s a crying need for such a model, considering how disgracefully most of them perform in global repression, corruption and social-justice rankings.
But thanks to 55 years of misrule by a regime that employs race and religion to perpetuate its power to plunder the nation’s natural resources and other riches, Malaysia’s formerly enviable educational system is far from a paragon of excellence, and appears to be getting progressively worse.
And no wonder. Teachers are routinely required to support and vote for the BN regime or else. Languages of instruction are confusingly changed at the will or whim of the powers that be. Public higher education places and scholarships are allocated according to ethnic quotas, not academic achievement. Universities are run by political appointees, and their students routinely penalised or outright expelled for supporting opposition parties.
And in its latest plot to appear sincere as the alleged ‘protector’ of Malaysia’s majority race and religion, this robber-regime has elected to make the study of Islamic and Asian Civilisation studies (Titas), long compulsory in public universities, mandatory in private institutions as well.
Not that there’s anything remotely wrong with the study of Islamic and Asian Civilisation per se. In fact I wish my own unfortunately Eurocentric, Christianity-biased education had been counterbalanced with much more Islamic and Asian content.
After all, Asian philosophers like Lao Tzu, Siddhartha Gautama and Confucius have been as influential in human history as many of their ancient Greek contemporaries. And we have the then-tolerant and open-minded Muslim world to thank for preserving pre-Christian European thought from destruction at the hands of the Churchmen through the thousand or so years of Europe’s ‘Dark Ages’.
But nowadays Muslims are threatened with a dark age of their own by governments and fundamentalist groups dedicated to keeping the Ummah as poor, ignorant and powerless as possible and thus perverting the very religion they so hypocritically pretend to protect in their pursuit of power and plunder.
And as “moderate” as it may be thus far compared with its counterparts in Taliban-infested Afghanistan, Pakistan and sundry other such Horrorstans, Malaysia’s BN regime is similarly dedicated to demonising non-Muslims, through government-funded pressure groups like Perkasa, ‘newspapers’ like Utusan Malaysia and indoctrination posing as education as in this latest Islamic and Asian Civilisation studies initiative.
The fact of the matter is that the BN regime’s influence on Malaysia and its every institution is not so much civilising as drivelising, as evidenced by the stupid, lying statements its spokespersons invariably make, the miserable state of its mendacious so-called “mainstream” media, and of course its lamentable efforts to “improve” the education system.
In any event, if this larcenous, low-brow regime had an even remotely sincere intention of making Malaysian higher education a more civilizing experience it would hardly be justified in limiting its efforts to imparting information about Islam and Asia.
As Malaysiakini quoted Catholic Bishop of Malacca-Johore Dr Paul Tan Chee Ing (left) as commenting, this is an “unwarrantedly narrowed engagement with the best that has been said, thought and done in this world”.
Granting that “Islamic and Asian civilisations have given much that is of value” to humankind, he said that additionally exposing students to Greek, Roman and Judeo-Christian thought would go a long way toward giving graduates some familiarity with “the good, the true and the beautiful”.
Making the point that “universities ought to be citadels for the disinterested contemplation of truth,” he added that “there’s no freedom like that conferred by knowledge of the truth, and there’s no bondage more enslaving than the truth’s suppression in the interests of politics”.
The good bishop knows what he’s talking about here, as it was the church he represents that spent the interminable centuries of the aforementioned dark ages systematically suppressing every scientific and other truth that could possibly threaten its spiritual, political and economic stranglehold over the faithful.
And it was only relatively recently in historical terms that the sorely-needed Reformation and the philosophical and political Enlightenment finally forced the Catholic and other Christian religions to at least partially clean up their acts and devote themselves to the pursuit of truth somewhat more sincerely than hitherto.
The fact of the matter is that, unlike training or, God forbid, indoctrination, education should be about teaching us not what some religion or government wants us to think, but how to think for ourselves. Or as the great Immanuel Kant expressed the spirit of the enlightenment, to dare to think for ourselves.
Personification of Such Daring
And if there’s one contemporary symbol and personification of such daring, it is Malala Yousafzai, the young Muslim girl who was shot by the Taliban last October for the “crime” of attending school.
In her recent address to the United Nations General Assembly on the occasion of her 16th birthday, Malala put the advocates and supporters of warring sectarian “truths” to shame by speaking of “the compassion I have learned from Muhammad, the prophet of mercy, Jesus Christ and Lord Buddha… the legacy of change I have inherited from Martin Luther King, Nelson Mandela (right) and Mohammad Ali Jinnah… (and) the philosophy of non-violence that I have learned from Gandhi, Bacha Khan and Mother Theresa.”
Later in her eloquent and intelligent address, she criticised those who misuse Islam, “a religion of peace, humanity and brotherhood”, for their own personal benefit, before closing with the clarion call for the world to use education “to wage a glorious struggle against illiteracy, poverty and terrorism.”
And also, of course, against BN-style errorism, in which education is used as a weapon to divide rather than unite the people of Malaysia, and education departments are used as milk-cows for corruption on a massive scale, the latest of countless scandalous instances of which being the contract recently awarded to crony company YTL Corp for overpriced Chrome book laptop computers.
But unfortunately, as well all know only too well, the criminals who so cretinously misgovern and mislead Malaysia are extremely unlikely to hear, let alone heed, such enlightened and educational messages as Malala’s. In fact, if their past practices are any indication, they’re more likely to figuratively, if not yet like the Taliban literally, shoot the messenger.