Tolerance in schools


  • Letters
  • Monday, 23 Apr 2007

OUR nation is on the threshold of a new Malaysian generation. I would think that all important issues especially racial integration were being viewed and debated with the hope of producing a Malaysia which is more resilient and unified. 

As a key measure, I would champion the call for better and more honest inter-racial respect among the races. 

Let us be clear that all Malaysians should be treated and expect to be treated with respect regardless of his/her race by other Malaysians. 

This is not happening fast enough today. Yes, we may have friends from other races and we respect them because they are our friends. But what about those whom we don’t know?  

I feel that primary schools are an excellent place to start fostering racial tolerance. After all, the children's minds are fresh and the concept of a Rakyat Malaysia can be easily passed on. 

This idea is quickly snuffed out due to the many choices of government schools, vernacular schools and private schools with everyone saying that because there is freedom of choice there is no difference in sending a child to a Chinese school or private school instead of a Sekolah Kebangsaan. Is there really no difference? 

I also recently discovered why some people are saying that national schools are too Islamic. I attended a prize- giving ceremony at my daughter’s school and parents were there in force as it involved Year One, Year Two and Year Three students. 

I started to feel uneasy at the beginning of the speech by the headmaster when she said “Assalamualikum murid-murid” and the entire hall reverberated with the sound of “Walaikumsalam warahmatullahi wabarakatuh Cikgu” from the 300 or so students there. 

As it was probably normal for a government school, there were about 15-20% of parents who were non-Muslim. 

“Selamat Sejahtera’ only came after the long salam and I noticed a young Sikh boy actually returning the salam. 

At this point I thought this should not be the way in a truly pluralistic society. Sure let’s respect all religions but we shouldn’t push our religion onto others and make them captive audience to a religion alien to them. 

Then there was the doa that non-Muslims had to endure as well. Though doa is a good thing, shouldn’t we limit such to agama classes? 

After all answering a salam and spreading hands in doa are good deeds between Muslims but do not form the basis of the Aqidah nor do they effect one’s iman, and non-Muslims should not be involved. 

If we avoid revamping the entire school system we can forget about promoting unity. 

We need to look at the impact of vernacular schools and national schools and at their role as educational establishments responsible for teaching Malaysians. 

Though the task is certainly daunting it has to done, there must be a study done and concessions made by all parties. The fate of the future Malaysians is in the hands of teachers (and parents) everywhere, no matter what race. 

 

AHMAD ZAKI DATUK ISMAIL, 

Petaling Jaya.  

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