What the Khat?

My previous article has been about how our nation is moving towards being more conservative than ever, how our political landscape has turned our people to be more conservative throughout these years.

Race, religion and gender has been a very important topic to many Malaysians despite being a sensitive one.

The recent hottest issue has just proven that we are definitely moving towards the direction of being even more conservative.

Until about last week, nobody knew or cared what is khat. Nobody bothers so much about Jawi calligraphy.

Today, everyone seems to be an expert of khat. Many sound like they know about the history, what it is used for, how it is relevant to our culture, the art and many other unimportant details.

In the newspapers, in my social media feeds, the topic of discussion at coffee shops, food courts and even in the Grab; is all about khat.

Thanks to the education ministry, Malaysians were so connected to each other now on the same topic.

But could this be a distraction instead?

To me, or to many Malaysians, khat is unimportant in our education, but it seems like it has been the most important discussion of the week.

The discussion of the topic is so important that we might have forgotten about other important topics or maybe scandals.

Suddenly, we no longer care who the two males in the video are. We don’t bother if rare earth is going to pollute our country anymore. What happened to the wastes that were sent from other nations to us? Are we even aware of the announcement about the third national car? Did we just stop discussing the three islands that will be reclaimed in Penang? We gave the vote to the 18 years old already, but aren’t we going to do anything to educate them about politics and governance?

These are issues that are of utmost importance that we should discuss and get the public’s opinion and feedback.

Malaysians have been on the wrong track of discussing and advocating for issues that weren’t supposed to be even happening in the first place.

Why make the learning of the khat for primary kids compulsory in the first place?

Why can’t we make it an optional subject for students?

I agree that it is good for students to learn more things. But don’t they have too many subjects to learn now? Can they cope with the stress of learning something that is totally new to them? It is not about learning English calligraphy, but calligraphy in a language that they have never learnt before. 

Let me get this clear, I am not against Jawi calligraphy, I think it is a beautiful typography for someone to learn. But to make it compulsory for primary school students of vernacular schools seems to give more stress towards them.

Aren’t we discussing educating our children of critical thinking skills for years or probably decades already? We should have moved to include that teaching now instead of khat. Or maybe improve our education to a more practical aspect.

It is also ironic that in 2008, YB Teresa Kok protested against the use of Jawi wordings in road signs in Kuala Lumpur. And today, they are in the Government that are making primary students of Chinese and Tamil schools learn khat. So what is the whole purpose of that decision is for? To attract more Malay votes?

This is totally a decision that is uncalled for. All the signing of petitions, campaigns, gatherings could have been avoided. Let us not hope that some irresponsible politicians will turn it into a racial issue to gain political mileage.

Again, we must focus on what is important and is of immediate attention.