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Not true that religious schools lead to racism, says ethnic relations expert

Shamsul Amri Baharuddin says these are only assumptions.

2 minute read
Ethnic relations expert Shamsul Amri Baharuddin says there is no data to show that religious schools lead to Malay and Islamic sentiments.
Ethnic relations expert Shamsul Amri Baharuddin says there is no data to show that religious schools lead to Malay and Islamic sentiments.

An ethnic relations expert has dismissed recent remarks by a political analyst on the number of religious schools registered in the country and concerns over race relations among the various communities, saying there is no data to show that such schools are the source of Malay and Islamic sentiments. 

Speaking to MalaysiaNow, Shamsul Amri Baharuddin said comments of the sort were only assumptions. 

"They are hypotheses without proof from those who are afraid of the green wave," he said. 

"Racial sentiments do not come from these hypotheses." 

Political analyst James Chin had made the remarks in a Twitter post accompanied by a government infographic showing the number of religious schools registered in each state.  

"Should I state the obvious? The 4000+ schools here (not including the unregistered ones) educate thousands of Muslims with limited (or even no) contact with non-Muslims Malaysians. 

"Is that why they are so suspicious of the Chinese and Indians? In one more generation, they will constitute the majority of Muslims educated in Malaysia. I don't have to tell who will win, as early as GE17, and thereafter," he said.  

Shamsul, of Universiti Kebangsaan Malaysia's Institute of Ethnic Studies, said similar misunderstandings also arose in the 3R issues of race, religion and royalty. 

According to him, though, 3R polemics were seen as skewed towards the Malays or Malay parties when in fact they existed in every ethnic group in the country. 

"These 3R issues in Malaysian politics are part of what we call identity politics," he said. 

"This happens when political parties claim to represent the voice of individual ethnic groups. Because of this, 3R issues exist in every ethnic group in the country, not just among the Malays." 

Gagasan Bangsa spokesman Aminuddin Yahaya agreed that such perceptions were unfounded, saying parents were inclined to send their children to such centres as part of efforts to balance their general education with religious studies. 

"Many parents send their children to religious schools because they worry about a lack of emphasis on religion at other schools," he said. 

He added that those who made such claims did not understand that Islam does not teach its followers to hate those of other races. 

Aminuddin also hit out at vernacular schools, which he said should be abolished for "threatening unity" and causing the national language to be overlooked. 

He also cited the historical writings of British settlers such as Frank Swettenham and Hugh Clifford whom he said had praised the attitude and manners of the Malays. 

Meanwhile, Teo Kok Seong, a senior fellow at the National Council of Professors, agreed that the structure and learning environment of religious schools would complicate the acceptance of other races. 

But he said the more accurate term would be race rather than sentiments that promote racism. 

"It invites the characteristics of race, but it is not racism," he said. 

"That cannot be avoided because they do not mix with other races – that, we cannot deny. 

"But racism is an attitude of discrimination. That is not an issue. The issue is that they just don't mix with other races."  

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