Many Malaysians are angry and deeply bothered by Universiti Teknologi Mara (UiTM) in the Kuala Lumpur suburb of Shah Alam organizing what was reported as an “anti-Christianization” conference, held on Dec. 12. It was the second such seminar held on the campus in 2015.
There is nothing new about the practice of such institutions in training students to fear themselves and non-Muslims and non-Malays especially. It is a natural program to instill fear as part of a culture to defend the existence of race-based ideology. It is part of an apartheid strategy of Malaysian education that I have written about in many articles.
I do not think the Christians and particularly Catholics in Malaysia appreciate being bullied endlessly. I do not think they want to be branded as “evil people trying to spread false and dangerous message threatening Islam.” Muslims in the west are being bullied as well. But neither is right.
I do not think they need to be associated with the Christian Crusades that took starting more than 1,000 years ago, or being linked to the undeniable brutality of the Christian-imperialist armies that annexed cultures and massacred natives in Latin America, Africa, Asian, and even Northern America.
I don’t think the Christians and Catholics in Malaysia want to be known as inheritors and carriers of the sins of their fathers . I think they just want to live, work, and worship in peace and be ensured that their safety be guaranteed in a majority Malay Muslim country.
Why do institutions such as UiTM need to instill such a fear and to unnecessarily turn young and hopefully not-yet-Daesh/IS radicalized students into hating Christians? Why not encourage education for peace and conflict resolution? Why not teach empathy through ongoing good dialogue among Malaysians of different faiths? Why warn them of the “dangers of Christianization” and not expect some lunatic fundamentalist groups to take the warning one step further and translate it into violent action, sanctioned and legitimized by the authorities?
What education should look like
Haven’t we heard the word ‘Islamophobia’? Why create ‘Chistianophobia’ at a time when the world is bipolar, violent, and plagued with all kinds of phobias?
Let us come back to our senses. Here is my thought on what education should look like if we are to prevent racial and religious riots in future:
The education of today's bumiputeras via the special privileges given to them in all aspects, from preschool to postgraduate - especially the education of Malay Muslims through the racially-based institutions linked to the ruling party - has one objective.
It is to produce more and more members of the Malay-Muslim-bumiputera privileged class who will ensure that the non-bumi, non-Muslims be kept outside the gate of equality, equal opportunity and meritocracy, even though they are the rightful citizens of this country whose parents and grandparents have labored for this country so that the most privileged class of Malays and non-Malays can continue to be created to enslave the laboring classes of all races.
No need to have a complex understanding of Malaysia's philosophy of education, national development, frameworks of class evolution, politics of curricular studies, interplay between race, religion, and ideology, or any other complex theories of neo-feudalism to understand this simple fact of education and social reproduction in Malaysia.
We need to turn the system upside down and renew prosperity in this country, based not on the advancement of this or that race, but the simple human logic that each and every one of us is a human being with dignity and an important part of Humanity.
UiTM was different back in the days, especially in the 70s and early 80s. There is a vast difference in the way Malays were educated in the institution. It was a place to harness the creative energy and problem-solving gung-ho cognitive capabilities of students who had so much energy than just reading books only, so that they might further their studies and contribute to the development of the nation's post-independence.
This is because the leadership knew what education and human liberation meant. Because the first prime minster was a firm, fair, and wise man, the best we have had.
However, beginning in the mid-80s till today has come to look like a place to engineer the development of totalitarianism and fascistic mono-ethnic thinking of a diploma mill used for political means by political masters only concerned with their own survival and vainglory, in all the excesses of political authority and one-dimensionality instilling fear of others instead of promoting diversity and the love for ethnic differences and cultural beauty.
The difference between our premiers
All these - and not much about the plain honesty of creating a generation of Malays able to see the true nature of their own potentials and be ready for an ever-changing world of globalizing predatation.
Today’s prime minster is a very weak and unwise man. Not a good man at all. The worst we have ever had, many are saying.
That's the difference, if we agree . How then must the rakyat reclaim those once admirable institutions?
Wake up, speak up, alumni and all. Education is the art and science of creating the free man and woman.
“A multicultural, multi-vocalic, multidimensional understanding of Malaysia's complex society.” This is what we need. This is a major theme on global education and international and intercultural understanding that Malaysian institutions such as UiTM need. This is it, rather than ones that continue to stupefy students with themes that divide and insult the human intelligence as they relate to race and religion.
These institutions are not fit to be called universities and educational institutions if they continue to nurture cognitive-pathological thinking in an institution that is already mono-cultural. This is not necessary for an institution that denies the opportunities for the students to work together with students of other races, befitting of what Malaysia is and ought to be about.
I hope this misguided paradigm of educational progress and intellectual attainment can be changed with a gradual change in leadership; one that understands what education in the broadest sense of the word means.
While universities the world over are taking pride in being globalized and often scrambling and racing to make their campuses truly diverse and multicultural, UiTM and the Mara elite secondary schools i.e. Maktab Rendah Sains Mara (MRSM) are taking pride in defending the rights to be exclusively one-race, one religion, one-myopic vision at the expense of the development of the students' minds yearning to be multi-intelligent and able to develop multiple talents.
This has to change. Malaysians need to push for this change - because education is matter of national interest. Enough of Islamophobia. Enough of Christian and Muslims massacring each other the world over. Let us not create another version of Chistianophobia or Islamophobia right here in Malaysia.
Azly Rahman is a Malaysia-born educator now living in the United States