On the Beat | By Wong Chun Wai

Allow the moderate way to flourish

The sad part is the Government gets the blame from
Muslims and non-Muslims who assume that these are government orders.

When state-level Education Department directors and officers refuse to
interfere – because they themselves are sympathetic or unsure of the policy and
religious sensitivities involved – the school principal gets away with

We have also read reports of non-Muslim university students facing difficulties
in organising cultural activities because of bureaucratic hindrance from
mid-level administrators.

Malay university students, on the other hand, have complained of PAS-influenced
student leaders stopping them from holding Malay cultural dances involving men
and women.

Recently, Umno vice-president Datuk Seri Najib Tun Razak correctly cautioned
that growing intolerance by some Muslims towards non-Muslims and an Islamic
religious school system that preached hatred were threatening the Malaysian way
of life.

Deputy Prime Minister Datuk Seri Abdullah Ahmad Badawi has spoken about the importance
of ending racial polarisation in our education system, from pre-school to
university level.

The reality is disturbing, as Datuk Seri Dr Mahathir Mohamad revealed. Chinese
parents are sending their children to Chinese schools because they find national
schools too religious while Malays are sending their children to privately-run
religious schools because they find government schools too secular.

The end result is that young Malaysians are not mixing enough. Forget about
forging real relationships. There will be functional relations at work places
and businesses but they will only be superficial ties.

In the long run, Malaysians will come to view their rights and privileges from
a narrow racial and religious perspective.

Fellow columnist Shamsul Akmar of New Straits Times wrote recently how a pupil
came home crying because she had to lie in her religious class. Apparently, the
ustazah wanted to know from the class whether any of their mothers did not wear
the tudung. The poor girl was the only one in the class whose mother did not
cover her head.

Another counterpart, Zainon Ahmad of The Sun, wrote on a similar issue,
pointing out that some Muslim girls were not allowed to wear shorts during
physical exercise and sports activity. Peer pressure and other pressures, he
wrote, had caused most Muslim girls to wear the hijab.

He also pointed out that Bahasa Malaysia was renamed Bahasa Melayu after Datuk
Seri Anwar Ibrahim became the Education Minister. That, of course, robbed the
Malay language of its unification role – making it seem like a language of one
community rather than the pride of all Malaysians regardless of race.

During my student days at Universiti Kebangsaan Malaysia (UKM), I was ticked
off by a hostel warden when I walked into the hostel canteen in shorts on my
first day in campus.

I did not know I had committed an offence. The other students, including the
Muslims, did not complain but the warden was unhappy and openly expressed his

That was not all. The Chinese students wanted a separate section in the
canteen, saying it was inconvenient for them to travel to Kajang from the UKM
campus in Bangi for ''economy rice.''

Despite the support of the Muslim canteen operator, who saw the business
prospect, some administrators objected. It was only after much appeal that the
students succeeded – thanks to Vice-Chancellor Datuk Dr Yusuf Nor.

Dr Yusuf, who went on to become a Cabinet Minister, had moderate views and
sympathised with the minority Chinese students.

The students, members of the Chinese Consultative Committee that organised the
canteen, later ran into trouble. The committee, of which I was a leader, was
banned by Anwar because it was an unregistered communal-based group.

The other committee leaders were the present MCA Youth secretaries-general: Loh
Seng Kok, political secretary to Datuk Seri Dr Ling Liong Sik, and Liow Tiong
Lai, the MP for Bentong.

I understand a similar group like the CCC is now functioning in UKM with the
blessing of the university authorities.

All these cases did not involve government policy, merely restrictions imposed
at implementation level by racist officials. Moderate Malaysians should not be
afraid to speak up against any form of extremism, whether racial or

Let's not allow extremists, whether Malays, Chinese or Indians, to hijack our
education system – the moderate Malaysian way of life must be allowed to