What's Up With Khat?!

What the year 4 BM textbook could look like in 2020.

Fellow Chinese people of Malaysia, I'm cautioning against over-blowing & racializing this issue.

Our Fears
First, let me acknowledge our fears. We fear that our children will be Islamized. We fear that the federal government has ulterior motives. We fear that the standard of education will fall. We fear that our vernacular schools will be crippled & destroyed. We fear that we will lose our culture. We fear that giving in now will open the door to bigger concessions in the future. We have the same fears, you & I. Oh and, newsflash, so do our Malay, Indian, Dayak, & Kadazan countrymen. We all have the same fears & we have been conditioned for the past 50 years to aim those fears at each other with suspicion & hate, while the ruling class look on with their hands in our pockets.

Guard Our Democracy
Don’t get me wrong. I’m not telling you to forget your fears, I certainly want you to be on your guard for inequality & corruption. Citizens need to be on alert for a democracy to thrive. You know what else is essential for a democracy? Try & make 3 guesses before reading the answer…………… critical thinking! More specifically, critical media consumption & critiquing information shared on social media.

Don’t Be Played
After reading your comments & the things you’ve forwarded, it’s clear to me that there is a lot of misconception intentionally or unintentionally being created on this khat issue & you are being played by some very very clever people, who know that older people share more fake news stories than the young. Respectfully, you shouldn’t trust anything on WhatsApp that doesn’t have a source that you can verify. When it gets you hot & bothered, try triangulation.

If you fancy yourself a modern intellectual & truly want to understand what this entire khat thing is about, read on. I'll share my limited understanding of it from various sources. Otherwise, skip down to the comments section & knock yourselves out. No point arguing with trolls. Don't feed the trolls.

What is khat?
“Khatt” (خط‎) is Arabic for “line”, “design”, or “construction”. Internationally, it is calligraphy based on the Arabic alphabet. While Arabic calligraphy is mostly Islamic and Islamic calligraphy is mostly in Arabic, they should not be conflated. There are Christian manuscripts in Arabic, which may make use of khat.

The khat that will be introduced to our students is JAWI khat. Not Arabic khat. JAWI khat is based on Jawi, not Arabic. As I understand it, Jawi may look like Arabic but Arabic speakers will not understand Jawi, as it has different characters. Also, if one were to read Jawi, it'll sound like BM, rather than Arabic. BM was written in Jawi before Rumi (Roman characters) was introduced.

Jawi is a script that represents pronunciation like Roman characters do.
For example,  Jarod is جارود.. J (Jim) A (Alif) R (Ro) U/O (Wau) D (Dal).
جارود. is the written script in Jawi characters.
"j" "a" "r" "u/o" & "d" are the sounds of the characters.

"Jim" "Alif" "Ro" "Wau" & "Dal" are the names of the characters, like "Ay", "Bee", & "See".
*credit to Cikgu Azmira Amran*

How will khat be implemented in 2020?
As I understand it, the inclusion of khat was already on its way since 2014 with a plan to roll out a revised KSSR in the second wave of the Malaysian Education Blueprint.

Before a textbook is released, a panel of academics are assembled to figure out what to put into the new textbook. Then, the textbook is reviewed by several multiracial panels of educators & other stakeholders prior to being printed & released. The photographs circulating on the internet of the BM textbook (title photo), are actually drafts presented for feedback at one of these stakeholder feedback sessions with Chinese & Tamil education groups.

I guess the idea was to dedicate a few pages of each language textbook to calligraphy. Thus, khat was selected for Malay, as was penmanship for English & 书法 for Chinese.

Khat is only on 6 pages out of 164 pages in the new BM textbook. That’s probably 5-6 lessons on khat a year. No added subjects. No change in timetable allocation. Not tested. Taught by regular BM teachers, not Islamic education teachers.

Can I be honest here? This entire episode by our people is totally akin to the gargantuan fuss made over crosses and who gets to use a certain Arabic word. Khat is such an insignificant part of the BM curriculum, it really doesn’t justify the amount of uproar produced. Fear. Fear is such a carnal instinct. At this point, we’re all worked up over hot air. Kind of like how black shoes issue was blown out of proportion.

Instead of why khat? We should be asking what else? And putting pressure on the government for
(1) basic needs (like electricity) to be provided for, (2) the modernization of our education system, (3) nationwide access to IR 5.0, & (4) the empowerment of low-income communities to set their children up for success.

Still, I’d encourage you to be on guard. We, the people, are after all a check & balance on the government. Keep an eye on the implementation of khat over the next few years. If it’s too much of a burden, then it should be easily skipped. If it whiffs of Islamization, go ahead, petition & protest.

With the knowledge of khat, the next time someone tells us to balik cina, let's write ساي انق مليسيا & stick it in their face. Wouldn’t you like to see that on a cap?

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