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Tajuddin: Jawi not the only one for aesthetic appreciation

  • Tajuddin: If we are serious about learning the Malay civilization, Jawi script had its origins in Pallava, which in turn had its origins in Sanskrit, why do we just learn Seni Khat and not earlier writing systems?

KUALA LUMPUR (Sin Chew Daily) – Professor of UCSI University Prof Mohamad Tajuddin Mohamad Rasdi said if the authorities had wanted to introduce Jawi at vernacular schools merely for “aesthetic appreciation” and “interesting cultural exposure”, then the “language for aesthetic appreciation” should not have been confined to Jawi alone, as there are certainly more languages that fit into the description.

When contacted by Sin Chew Daily, Prof Tajuddin said if Jawi was to be “appreciated” for its beauty in the name of learning the Malay civilization, it should be noted that the Hindu civilization had already been practiced here in Nusantara (the Malay Archipelago) long before Jawi. The Pallava script used during the Champa Kingdom had its origins in Sanskrit of the Hindu religion, and its history could be traced back to the Srivijayan Era. Jawi existed in this region only after Pallava.

“If we are serious about learning the Malay civilization, Jawi script had its origins in Pallava, which in turn had its origins in Sanskrit, why do we just learn Seni Khat and not earlier writing systems?"

Tajuddin cited his encounter with the Egyptian hieroglyphs purely out of personal interest while studying architecture, arguing that the learning of a language style should not be enforced, and that the learning of a new language would only produce the desired effects if a person learns out of interest.

For 'appreciation' only

Tajuddin stressed that he was not against the introduction of Jawi calligraphy at schools for the students' aesthetic appreciation. However, he was of the opinion that there were more ways than one to put this into implementation from the “appreciation” perspectives, for example by inviting scholars to give a demonstration at school, or taking students for a field trip to a museum, instead of incorporating the module into school curriculum.

He felt that the Romanization of Jawi script was a phase of “progress in civilization”.

“I can't see the resurgence of Jawi script anytime in future. We are living in a globalized world in which there are many ways to appreciate the beauty of an archaic or disused language.

Any use of learning Jawi?

“As I said, earlier scripts used in the Malay language originated from Sanskrit. Shouldn't we also learn other earlier language scripts and civilizations as well in order to appreciate the beauty of the Malay civilization?

“If we really want to boost the students' knowledge and awareness of the Malay civilization, we can always take them to a museum or arrange some short-term workshops for them, or even invite scholars to give a demonstration at school, for instance hands-on experience in batik printing, which will make learning much more interesting.

“What I would like to ask is: will the learning of Jawi help the students in future?”

Tajuddin also emphasized that the authorities were more concerned about one particular culture at the expense of cultural diversity in a globalized world.

He said by doing so, our students would be denied many good things in life, such as the cultures and languages of the minorities as well as the indigenous people, which he said were elements that would protrude the country's cultural diversity and should therefore be given their due attention and publicity.

Siti Kasim: assimilation policy

In the meantime, civil rights lawyer Siti Kasim slammed the education ministry for implementing an assimilation policy by pushing ahead the teaching of Jawi calligraphy at vernacular schools beginning next year against the will of many, using the excuse that the measure was first drawn up by the previous BN administration.

She said the measure was meant to “familiarize” the students with the Middle Eastern culture at a very young age, as this was perceived as favorable to the government's assimilation policy in future.

“They hastily enforce the learning of Jawi because they want the students to become familiar with the Arabic culture. In Malaysia, they can't tell the differences between Islamic and Malay cultures. After assimilation, young people will become increasingly receptive to the Arabic culture, including its religion.

Attempt to make Arabic the dominant language

“This is their motive as I see, to make Malaysia an “Islamic state” and Arabic the dominant language, and then turn Malaysia into another Middle Eastern country.”

Siti Kasim said the learning of Jawi should be done out of a student's own interest, and there was no need for the government to incorporate it into the BM curriculum.

She said the inclusion of Jawi calligraphy in the BM curriculum had substantiated her “assimilation” presumption.

“I'll have nothing to say if the aesthetic appreciation of Jawi is put in an Art class. Everyone is free to learn a cultural art, but there's no need to make it a part of a language curriculum, unless your purpose is to force all our young people to learn and excel in the language.”

Siti Kasim said the Jawi calligraphy was actually part of the Arabic culture that had nothing to do with a language, but this had sadly been exploited by some people to confuse the public.

“What really drives me crazy is that our government has allowed these people to do things that do not benefit our children at all.

“I'm glad Dong Zong and some other organizations have courageously stood up to resist. I'll be with you defending our education system together.

“They can't control the independent Chinese high schools, so they come up with this idea of enforcing Jawi in schools in an attempt to make our young people look like them.

“This is what they're quietly doing now!”

 

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