KUCHING: A Sarawak minister has called out PAS president Tan Sri Abdul Hadi Awang for being shallow-minded and insular about the English language.
State Tourism, Creative Industry and Performing Arts Minister Datuk Seri Abdul Karim Rahman Hamzah said mastery of English and other foreign languages did not reflect a colonial mindset.
He said knowing as many languages as possible was important for better communication with the rest of the world, besides enabling Muslims to acquire as much knowledge as possible as advocated by Islam.
“Arabic is not the language of our region. Does learning Arabic mean we have a colonial mindset? No.
“Similarly, being good in English doesn’t mean someone has a colonial mindset,” he said yesterday.
Abdul Karim said it was unfortunate for PAS to have a leader with a shallow mindset.
“Don’t be a frog under a coconut shell,” he added, referring to the Malay proverb for someone who is insular and ignorant.
Abdul Hadi had said in a statement on Sunday that Malaysians who preferred English over Bahasa Malaysia were trapped in a colonial mindset.
He also criticised Malaysians who belittled Bahasa Malaysia, saying they were “trapped by the former colonists who previously enslaved them”.
Abdul Karim said the PAS leader’s comments about English were not surprising as he had formerly made disparaging remarks about Sarawak’s Dayak community.
In 2009, Abdul Hadi blamed the then-Pakatan Rakyat’s defeat in the Batang Ai by-election on “cawat” (loincloth)-wearing Sarawakians who “did not know how to vote”.
Abdul Hadi’s criticism of those preferring to speak English over the national language has riled up other senior figures, with some questioning whether he comprehends the importance of English.
Former ambassador Datuk Noor Farida Mohd Ariffin said English was used all over the world and is the Asean official language.
Moderation advocate Mohamed Tawfiq Ismail regarded Abdul Hadi as taking a narrow-minded view of language and culture.