DAP secretary-general Lim Guan Eng has come out in defence of Chinese education group Dong Zong, saying the party does not agree it is racist as claimed by Prime Minister Dr Mahathir Mohamad.
In a statement, Lim said Dong Zong has never threatened the rights and security of other Malaysians.
“Instead, Dong Zong respects the Federal Constitution (and the) position of Bahasa Malaysia as the national language, while other languages can be freely taught and learnt,” he said.
Earlier, Mahathir again attacked Dong Zong but stopped short of saying whether the government would ban the organisation amid an online petition that has garnered tens of thousands of signatures.
This comes a day after he labelled Dong Zong “racist” after the group launched its own petition to oppose the move to introduce khat lessons in the Bahasa Melayu syllabus next year.
Lim said while everyone has the right to object against what Dong Zong said, the group has the right to freedom of expression.
“Such democratic right of freedom of expression, however, must not threaten punishment or inflict injury on those who have different views,” he said, adding that DAP disagreed with any suggestion to ban Dong Zong.
Lim also said since taking over the reins of the country last year, Mahathir has adopted an open approach to freedom of expression and has even given instructions that no one should be arrested or prosecuted for severely criticising him as prime minister.
“Therefore, DAP believes that the prime minister has no intention of banning Dong Zong,” he added.
In the meantime, several groups, including Bersatu’s youth wing, had launched petitions calling for Dong Zong to be banned.
On the matter of banning Dong Zong, Mahathir, who is also the Bersatu chairperson, said it is for the police to decide.
“We have freedom of speech, but we are also always sensitive about not instigating people of different races to fight with each other.
“But Dong Zong is only talking about one community and forgetting that this is a multiracial country,” Dr Mahathir said.
Meanwhile, Chinese educationist groups Dong Zong and Jiao Zong have pointed to a statement by Putrajaya-backed missionary group Yayasan Dakwah Islamiah Malaysia (Yadim) to defend its accusation of Islamisation through khat lessons.
In a joint statement, the groups also said that the Malay-Arabic calligraphy was previously taught in Islamic Education instead of Bahasa Malaysia, and should remain so as non-Malays would not even be familiar with the Jawi script in the first place.
“There is a basis for the opposition against teaching khat, due to the suspicion that it is a form of evangelism and part of an Islamisation effort,” they said.
The groups cited Yadim chairman Nik Omar Nik Abdul Aziz who in supporting the lesson, said it would increase the younger generation’s comprehension of the Jawi script and Arabic language to help them learn, understand, and practice Quranic teachings.
They also cited scholarly writings such as a paper titled ‘Contribution of Arabic Calligraphy to Islamic Art: A Historical Study’ by academic Mohd Bakhir Abdullah.
They added that others have also objected to the teaching of khat in vernacular schools, adding that the same sentiment was also shared by many in the non-Muslim community across the country.
It added that likewise, not all Malays also supported the move to introduce khat writing, pointing to former minister Tan Sri Rafidah Aziz’s remark, who called for the topic to be made an elective and not mandatory.
“The teaching of khat was rejected because of the failure by the Education Ministry’s officers to take into concern the views of the non-Malay communities, be it Dong Zong, Jiao Zong, Tamil Foundation or MCCBCHST,” it said referring to Malaysian Consultative Council of Buddhism, Christianity, Hinduism, Sikhism and Taoism.
“The reality is that all these while, the art of khat was taught in the Islamic Education subject, from Year Four onwards, for Muslim students, who learn Jawi since they are in Year One.
“What is the rationale for teaching the khat art form in the Bahasa Malaysia subject, when non-Muslim students don’t even know the Jawi script?” they asked.
They also called on Prime Minister Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad to hear the views of all quarters in the khat polemic and not deny the concerns of the non-Muslims, reminding the government of the importance a good engagement process involving all stakeholders.
Additionally, they reminded the government, especially Education Minister Maszlee Malik, to form a consultative body involving all communities, languages and religion in the ministry, to avoid a similar controversy from recurring.