Signs of change in Kuala Kangsar

Jawi lettering seen at the Victoria bridge. ­— Photos: RONNIE CHIN/The Star

KUALA KANGSAR is embracing Jawi as a way of drawing tourists to the royal town of Perak.

Signboards with Jawi lettering have popped up all over the place, from street signs, welcome arches and even shop fronts.

The efforts have been welcomed by locals who feel that it will create a one-of-a-kind attraction.

Teacher Sutinah Sari Mohd Alwi, 32, said she was happy and excited to see signage with Jawi writing in Kuala Kangsar.

“I was quite surprised and glad that there are efforts made to preserve one of the Malay heritage.

“It is a great effort by the local authorities. This would be beneficial for others, especially the younger generation to learn Jawi,” she told StarMetro.

“Kuala Kangsar is a famous tourist destination, so this might be a good way to promote Jawi to the tourists as well,” she added.

Sutinah said the authorities should encourage more places to use Jawi.

“Now we can see Jawi used on the street signs and shops.

“Perhaps the relevant authorities can add them to schools and on food packaging as well,” she said.

“As a teacher, I believe that some students might forget how to write in Jawi as secondary schools don’t use it anymore.

“So having them around town, it would be a way to promote Jawi to the tourists and also to the locals,” she added.

Meanwhile, a hairdresser who wished to be known only as Lai, said she too welcomed the idea.

“I think it is only logical to have Jawi signboards in Kuala Kangsar since we have a lot of Malay history here.

“Right now, the signboards at my hair salon don’t have any Jawi writing yet, but I might change them soon,” she said.

“I am able to read Jawi fluently since I was taught by my late father, who was an avid reader of the Jawi newspaper when he was young.

“Not only will it become an attraction among locals, but it will also help change the perception of others about the writing.

“There might be a misunderstanding about Jawi since it is quite similar to the alphabet used in the Arabic language but that is how we change the perception,” Lai added.

Jawi is a writing system used for writing the Malay language and several other languages of South-East Asia, and is based on the Arabic script.

Jawi was included in the Heritage Act of 2005 as an intangible item that needs to be conserved.

Met while visiting Kuala Kangsar, Amirul Iskandar Mohd Azli, who is from Ipoh, said he believed that Jawi writing would encourage more youths to learn it.

“It is great to see Jawi writing at the tourist spots in Kuala Kangsar, such as at the Victoria Bridge and city centre,” said the 17-year-old, who busks for a living.

“These days, there are signboards written in Chinese and Tamil characters, so why not have them in Jawi writing as well?

“If Kelantan can get it done, why not Perak?” he questioned when met during his visit to the town.

(Jawi has been used widely for signage in Kelantan.)

Another tourist, YouTube content creator Nor Hairudin Nor Hashim, said Jawi fitted the image of Kuala Kangsar.

“Everyone knows that Kuala Kangsar is the royal town of Perak.

“There are a lot of historical events that took place here and it only makes sense to have Jawi writing all around the town.

“As a history buff, I am happy to see this.

“I hope the council will add more around the city and perhaps later all over Perak,” he added.

According to Kuala Kangsar Municipal Council (MPKK) president Zulqarnain Mohamad, plans are afoot to slowly include Jawi writing on all signage in town.

Zulqarnain said the plan to use Jawi was decided a few years ago, before he was appointed council president in 2019.

“Sultan Perak Sultan Nazrin Muizzuddin Shah also liked the idea.

“He told us that Jawi writing in Kuala Kangsar fits its image as a royal town,” he said when met recently.

“We then decided to implement it slowly and started with buildings that we owned, such as the MPKK building, street signboards and the upcoming wet market.

“The McDonald’s branch in Kuala Kangsar is also the first one in the state to have a Jawi signboard,” he said, adding that more shops in the area are expected to change their signboards soon.

Zulqarnain, who is former Ipoh City Council Town Planning Department head, said the changes would be done in stages.

“It will take some time to make the changes, which is why we are not making it compulsory for premises to change their signboards.

“As there are plans to add more tourism products in Kuala Kangsar, we believe that Jawi writing will definitely be one of the main attractions in Kuala Kangsar,” he added.

Perak tourism and local government committee chairman Datuk Nolee Ashilin Mohammed Radzi said prior to using Jawi writing on street signs and signboards, the local authorities must first get approval from the community.

“On behalf of the state government, we have no issue with the matter, especially if the community welcomes the idea.

“MPKK has received the approval from various parties and until now, the state has not received any complaints regarding the signboards,” she confirmed.

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