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Controversy over Malaysia’s plan to introduce khat in syllabus

SUBANG : Older Singaporeans might know and recognise Jawi, otherwise known as khat.

The Arabic script for writing Malay used to be commonly used in the past but has faded.

Now, Malaysia's plan to introduce it into the Year 4 syllabus for 10-year-olds has stirred controversy.

A total of 138 officials and assemblymen from the Chinese-dominated Democratic Action Party (DAP), part of the ruling Pakatan Harapan coalition, have publicly opposed the plan and urged ministers from the party to do the same.

Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad said on Saturday the plan would go ahead, noting the government has never objected to other forms of writing, including Chinese.

SUPPORT

He has support from Parti Islam Se-Malaysia president Abdul Hadi Awang, who labelled opponents to the initiative as descendants or proxies of British colonialists, amid claims the move was part of a broader "Islamisation" attempt, The Star reported.

He said even Singapore's first prime minster Lee Kuan Yew and DAP leader Tan Seng Giaw could read the script.

Transport Minister Anthony Loke, who is from the DAP, defended Dr Mahathir yesterday. He dismissed allegations Dr Mahathir is capitalising on the khat or Jawi controversy to split the Chinese and unite the Malays.

The DAP organising secretary said Dr Mahathir was a statesman.

"And he is a prime minister for all Malaysians," he added.

Mr Loke said this when asked to comment on claims by some parties that the issue was being used to divide the Chinese community.

He said the party had obtained feedback from its leaders and would forward their stand on khat to the Cabinet, The Star reported.

"DAP leaders had gathered on Monday, we have listened to the views and feedback from our elected representatives.

"We are united. And we will convey our view to the Cabinet," he said.

On the Malaysian Chinese Association's (MCA's) call to DAP to pressure Dr Mahathir to abort plans to introduce khat in schools, Mr Loke said the DAP would only listen to the voices of its members and the general public, The Star reported.

"We serve the people, not the MCA," he said.

WORLD