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11:05am 02/12/2021
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Embracing Bahasa Melayu and Jawi

By Prof Dr. Mohd Tajuddin Mohd Rasdi

Recently, there were two issues that caught my attention.

Firstly, it was the SRJK(C) signboard Jawi affair and the other is the Prime Minister chiding GLC’s and others for not honoring and using Bahasa Melayu.

In today’s article, I would like to paint a different Malaysia, a Malaysia in which all the citizens embrace Bahasa Melayu and Jawi writing.

Now, before any of you feel disgusted at my proposed discourse, I ask you to read on and reserve your judgment until I have placed my thoughts and argument.

My article will deal with five ‘what if’ scenarios that could change Malaysia forever and to the betterment of everyone!

For donkey years, Malaysians have distanced Bahasa Melayu and Jawi as two symbols of encroachment on their cultures, and to me this has given a wonderful time for politicians to play around with this issue.

Let us turn the tables and beat the politicians at their own games.

What if all the signboards were to be changed to Bahasa Melayu and Jawi? Imagine reading Gereja St. John in Jawi, or Kuil Gurdawara again in Bahasa Melayu Jawi script. What about Cabutan Nombor Bertuah in Jawi? Or Kedai Arak dan Tuak also in BM and Jawi script?

If mosques, temples, churches and gurdwaras were all written in Jawi, this would create a commonality in spiritual faith and promote the visit of all faiths to one another’s houses of worship with ease and harmony. Wouldn’t it?

What if all the religious clerics and scholars of Christianity, Buddhism, Sikhism, Hinduism and Baha’i were able to speak in fluent Bahasa Melayu, complete with the wisdom of peribahasa and adab or manners of Islam?

What if all of them were able to read and quote the Qur’an and Hadith in their speeches with Malays at social events like khenduri kahwin or aqiqah? What if all of these religious clerics were able to preach their religions in Bahasa Melayu and have all their social media and print in the same language, and yes, also in Jawi?

For me, this is a good thing because the Malays would be exposed to many religious ideas and discourses that would enrich them and bring them out of their coconut shells.

What if all the non-Malay parliamentarians can present their arguments in Bahasa Melayu complete with the wisdom of peribahasa, bahasa klasik, with pantun and quotes from past religious scholars and intellectuals of the Malay sages and intelligentsia?

How will Umno and PAS react? They are always saying that the others are belittling Bahasa Melayu and Islamic culture embedded with such heritage as the Jawi script.

I once wrote of a Chinese businessman who could speak not only fluent Bahasa Melayu but also in the Kelantanese dialect! He could recite pantuns, songs and peribahasa at whim and can argue his issues extremely well.

I said to my friend that if Chinese political parties have people like this guy, Umno and PAS would close shop.

What if all public universities require all their academics to convert their teachings from English to Malay and using the Jawi script?

For me, this would indeed increase the capacity of the Malays to think and be more accepting.

Now, the Malay political and religious discourses are trapped within that of a few politicians and religious figures.

With PhD thesis in Bahasa Melayu and even in Jawi, the Malays will have access to many political, religious and economic ideas and ideologies that were forever locked by Malay clerics and politicians.

What if all the TV programs including ethnic dramas were to be in Bahasa Melayu?

In Mr. Khan, a comedy series produced for British TV network BBC, we can see the life of Pakistani Muslims trapped in tradition, modernity and the English ways.

The show was quite popular and now many non-Muslims know the values and customs of Muslims and Pakistanis.

With the use of Bahasa Melayu and Jawi, all races and faiths will be able to influence one another now that there is a definitive bridge between civilizations in this country.

What kind of Malaysia will the embracing of Bahasa Melayu and Jawi produce?

This is a valid and interesting question that would have a huge impact on politics and social interaction.

What I am sure of is that there will no longer be any Malay-based parties or personalities that would point fingers at the ‘pendatang’, as they now probably speak better Bahasa Melayu and even know Islam more than he or she does as a Malay and as a Muslim!

Apa lagi Melayu mau?

(Professor Dr. Mohd Tajuddin Mohd Rasdi is Professor at a local university.)

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Tajuddin Mohd Rasdi
Bahasa Malaysia

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