What is wrong about TITAS
by Dr Lim Teck Ghee
18th July 2013
Pandan Member of Parliament Rafizi Ramli’s support of the proposal by the Ministry of Higher Education to make the Islamic and Asian Civilisation Studies (TITAS) course compulsory in private tertiary institutions (IPTS) is a disappointment. More disappointing is the reasoning behind his support for the introduction of the subject.
His argument that “politically, it’s not helping when it’s made too much of a fuss, because it fits the Malay right-wing argument that the Chinese and non-Malays refuse to understand and look down on everything Islam” smacks of crude political opportunism.
Members of the public who see him as a potential future leader expect him to take on and not surrender to Malay right wing opinions that are based on irrational and mischievous thinking.
Rafizi should know that the religious and socio-cultural conflict in the country is not because the non-Malays refuse to understand and look down on everything that is Islamic. The great majority of Malaysians respect the faith of their neighbours even if they may not understand it. What they resent and oppose is the state-sponsored assertion of dominance and superiority of a religion that is different or not their own.
I am sure Malay Muslims will similarly resent and resist any action to marginalize their religion and culture in any country in the world. In this particular case, we are witnessing the use of the public sphere to force feed the young with perspectives that are biased to one religion and narrowly selective.
During the past two decades there has been a concerted attempt by Umno leaders using the bureaucracy to reconfigure Malaysian and world history as well as civilizational studies taught in schools to fit in with their “ketuanan Melayu”, “ketuanan Islam” and “ketuanan Umno” mindset.
Surely Rafizi is fully aware of these efforts – including those linked with the BTN scandal – which are derived from unjust and unacceptable notions of Bumiputera and Muslim privilege, superiority and dominance.
Surely he does not believe the lame justification put out by Muhyiddin Yassin, the Minister of Education in Parliament that the introduction of the required course is simply to streamline the requirement of public and private institutions of higher education. If he did so, he must have been born yesterday.
That Umno has been able to succeed in the past with the introduction of one policy after another to mould the educational system to conform to its political agenda speaks volumes about the so-called neutrality and professionalism of the Education Ministry, the craven non-UMNO leaders in the government as well as about the degree of ignorance and apathy amongst Malaysian parents.
An awakened public
The Malay and non-Muslim public have now awoken. During the past two years we have seen various NGOs, including the multi-racial and multi-religious grouping of “Kempen Sejarah Malaysia Sebenar” (KemSMS) raise their voices for the overhaul of the current history syllabus and text books. They have also requested for delay in the planned implementation of History as a compulsory subject at the secondary level (see http://english.cpiasia.net/index.php?option=com_content&view=article&id=2179:reclaiming-our-truly-malaysian-history&catid=141:lim-teck-ghees-contribution&Itemid=93).
It is not clear to what extent their proposals and recommendations have been accepted and incorporated into the report of the special committee studying the history text books and history syllabus for secondary schools curricula. The important thing is that they have done their homework and spoken up.
A similar outcry and close scrutiny of TITAS is needed. Under the guise of instilling “national patriotism” and “nationalism”, it is likely that TITAS is part of the overall game plan of Umno in cahoots with our education officialdom to ensure that the party’s version of politically correct history, religious and civilizational studies is imprinted into the minds of our young generation.
If TITAS goes through as a compulsory requirement, non-Malays and non-Muslims will not be the only losers. Young Malays and the Muslims themselves too will lose out as they imbibe and internalize a propagandistic and truncated version of the world’s religions and civilizations which will highlight the self -proclaimed superiority of Islam and the shortcomings of all other religious and civilizational systems. This can only diminish and impoverish rather than nourish their minds, values and behaviour.
This is why Rafizi needs to reconsider his stand – if not for the sake of the non-Malays, at least for the sake of the Malays. This is why other stakeholders need to speak out and demand to know the truth behind the proposed course and put its contents, the recommended text books, and other requirements under the microscope of public scrutiny.