Jawi: identity as well as conflict

Info seputar HK Hari Ini 2020 – 2021.

This article is based on seminar entitled “Jawi: spiritual and also nonreligious,” which will certainly be presented in the ANU Malaysia Institute Seminar Series 2021 on Tuesday, 27 July, 2021– 17:00 to 18:10(AEST). You can register to attend the workshop via the event page. Among the debates that embroiled Malaysia’s Pakatan Harapan federal government came from a rather unforeseen

resource– Jawi. This adapted Arabic script was, from at the very least the 16th century the most typical way of composing Malay, yet has been displaced throughout the 20th century by Rumi, or Roman script. The action from Jawi to Rumi as the default depiction ofthe Malay language occurred not as a result of early american plan, but from Malays themselves as component of a modernising schedule. It was the Kongres Bahasa of 1954 that validated using Rumi along with Jawi in the name of development, and also the Barisan Nasional governments of the 1970s and also 80s that sidelined Jawi within the national curriculum. Associated National consistency: race, national politics and also campaigning in Malaysia

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In 2019, when it arised that the Ministry of Education– then headed by Dr Maszlee Malik, that was currently believed in some quarters for being a crypto-Islamist– had presented several web pages on Jawi in the Bahasa Malaysia book for Requirement Four, outrage occurred. Some– most plainly Chinese-language educationalists– saw this as the Islamisation of the federal government curriculum by stealth. Others– most prominently Malay ethnochauvinists– insisted that Jawi script was intrinsically Islamic and also should not be profaned by being shown to non-Muslims. Numerous other Malaysians (myself consisted of) were instead bemused that Jawi had actually come to be a lightning rod for identitarian fierceness, particularly offered the web content of the textbook web pages concerned.

Number 1: A Tweet shows a few of the debatable message publication pictures. These [see Fig. 1] were staunchly(and also even comically )nationalistic as well as secular: Cikgu Yazid(Malay )teaching schoolchildren Chun Han(Chinese)as well as Aidil(Malay)to review words”Malaysia”written in Jawi on stamps; Gauri’s older sibling(Indian)revealing her the words” ringgit Malaysia” and” Bank Negara Malaysia “in Jawi on the banknotes; and also one more student (ethnicity undefined!) finding out to review the national motto (‘Bersekutu bertambah mutu’) in Jawi. An onlooker blissfully oblivious of Malaysia’s harmful mix of racial, etymological and also spiritual politics might ask: what could there be to object to below?

In looking for to reintroduce Jawi to the nationwide curriculum in 2019, the PH Ministry for Education and learning seems to have actually been attempting to go back to the means points were in the first Mahathir era. Approximately the early 1980s, Malaysian government curriculum books framed Jawi script as component of Bahasa Malaysia, a nationwide rather than common quality, etymological rather than religious. One 1983 Requirement 3 Jawi textbook, as an example, illustrates a multiethnic team of uniformed schoolgirls– Salmah (Malay), Uzmah (Malay), Ah Moi (Chinese) as well as Kumari (Indian) [see Fig. 2] It additionally has a reading understanding featuring a dog, which would likely not satisfy requirements currently, as numerous Malay Muslims regard pet dogs as unclean.

Figure 2: Bottom right, the 1983 message publication with images of multiethnic institution girls; and top left, Muslim kids discovering Jawi on the cover of a 2014 Jawi textbook. This nonreligious nationalist alignment transformed after Jawi was eliminated from the mandatory educational program in the mid-1980s. Although it was once instructed just taught as an added topic, especially in Islamic colleges, after its elimination the production of books was taken over by personal business, and also emphasised the allegedly inherently Islamic nature of the manuscript. The 2014 textbook intended for six years of age, for example, features a woman in a headscarf and also 2 young boys wearing songkok on the cover. Within, the assistance for teachers worries learning about the Prophet’s life, and also concerning Islamic values and also conduct. Right here, Jawi, Islam as well as Malayness are strongly linked.

Figure 3: Ad for Tiger Beer. With permission from the Malaysia Style Archive. While there is absolutely a close and also abiding organization in between Islam and also Jawi, since the Arabic language and also script are inherent to the Qur’an, in its centuries long visibility in Southeast Asia Jawi has actually been made use of by Muslims as well as non-Muslims alike, for all kind of objectives. Some of those most worked out by the 2019 controversy might have been amazed to know that, for example, Jawi was utilized for to advertise beer in the 1930s (“Tiger Beer … maintains you solid and healthy and balanced”) [Figure 3], to advertise Chinese-made soya sauce to multiethnic customers in the 1950s (“taken pleasure in by Malays, Chinese and Indians”) [Number 4], as well as for erotica in the 1960s (Godaan Wanita et al).

Figure 4: Kicap Cap Kuda Terbang advertisement, Majlis, 4 August 1950. Even earlier than this, when Jawi was the only script for Malay, it was made use of as an issue of program for secular literary works, like the continually popular Panji stories, embeded in a pre-Islamic Java [Number 5], along with for Islamic texts. It is only now, when Malay in Rumi inhabits all secular cultural area– dime books, comics, papers, promotions– that Jawi has come to be seen as exclusively Islamic.

Figure 5: 19th century Malay Panji manuscript from Kelantan, British Collection.

At the elevation of Malaysia’s Covid epidemic, intensified by a progressively useless government, the Jawi dispute of 2019 seems insignificant and remote. Language– as well as by expansion manuscripts utilized for languages– in education have actually constantly been extremely contentious problems in Malaysia, with real-world consequences. The Jawi controversy might have been a factor in Dr Maszlee’s resignation, and also maybe served as a bellwether for the frailty of the PH coalition. The furore over a few apparently innocuous web pages in a textbook give an indication of simply exactly how polarised Malaysian culture has become, of simply how challenging it is for Salmah, Uzmah, Ah Moi and also Kumari to walk with each other to school, or for their seniors to delight in a meal with each other.