How will a new ‘Interfaith Understanding’ subject fare in schools? — Rehan Ahmad

Source: The Malay Mail Online


AUGUST 7 — Recently the chairman of The Committee to Promote Inter Religious Understanding and Harmony (JKMPKA) Datuk Azman Amin Hassan suggested the introduction of a new subject into the Ministry of Education’s syllabus. This subject for the time being is referred to as “Interfaith Understanding.”

Intellectual wisdom applauds any effort to enhance the unity between Malaysian citizens. However a bigger question mark lurks on the execution of such a subject.

Islamic Studies or Pendidikan Islam has been and still is taught in all public schools up to Form 5. Despite 11 years of learning this subject, for most Muslim students, the subject is not available in SPM, PMR, PT3, UPSR.

How would the introduction of a new subject fare?

The Islamic Studies subject is not taken seriously because it is not present in the board exams, it may be taught in the spirit of the federal constitution albeit not fully.

The absence from the board exams means less emphasis is put to study the subject. More emphasis is put on the subject that are present. Shouldn’t we enhance something that already exists than to introduce another “decoration” piece merely for the sake of it?

Why not allow the non-Muslims to take Islamic Studies as an elective subject? Wouldn’t that be better? Apart from that it will not cost tax payers money to conduct the feasibility studies, hire new teachers, new syllabuses and other expenses that come with introducing a new subject.

Why not expand on something that already exists. This way, the students that would want to understand Islam and the Malay community better can take this subject as an option.

Islam is after all the religion of the Federation and the religion of the majority. Why introduce a new subject that might or might not serve its purpose?

It would be better to open up Islamic Studies in schools to students of other religions. This could be implemented much more quickly and efficiently without the need to hire new teachers or add anything if any at all to the existing syllabus.

And in order to enhance the enthusiasm, Islamic Studies should be made a compulsory subject in the board exams for the Muslims.

There is always a step to be taken in order to learn about one another, Muslim students should also be given the chance to attend Tamil and Mandarin classes in schools where they are offered. This will allow the everybody a chance to learn about the culture of other communities in Malaysia.

Because a Malay is constitutionally a Muslim, then in order to understand the Malays better the non-Muslims can take up Islamic Studies and Muslim students can take up language classes.

The suggestion by JKMPKA (assuming the chairman represents the committee) is good, but he can do better. Under the existing circumstances by using the existing infrastructure rather than trying to create an entirely new universe of teachers, fact finding missions etc. We know how feasibility studies are not really feasible and can come with a very large price tag too.

Besides, don’t we all live in a multicultural nation, and shouldn’t we all know how to speak each others’ language and know our cultures better?


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