Thursday, June 16, 2016

Of Dirty Hindus and Confused Sikhs

TITAS* course material used in lectures at Universiti Teknologi Malaysia and said to be derogatory to the Hindu and Sikh communities were posted online and the said slides received vociferous condemnation.

[TITAS* stands for the “Tamadun Islam dan Tamadun Asia” course, which in English, is “Islamic and Asian Civilization Studies]. 

[Additional note: The TITAS module was made mandatory to all tertiary students regardless of religion in 2013. Critics of the module had then alleged that it was a front to push an Islamic supremacy agenda in the country]. 

One slide had made the preposterous postulation that Hindus considered the dirt on the body as part of their religious practice to achieve nirvana. In that same slide too, there was this absurd assertion that it was Islam which introduced civility to the lives of the Hindu community. 

Another slide had claimed that Sikhism is a combination of Hinduism and Islam, and it mentioned a certain Kabir as having only a skin-deep understanding of Islam. [I am not sure why Kabir was referred to but it was Guru Nanak who founded Sikhism].

The leaked educational slides from UTM that depicted Hindus as ‘dirty’ and misrepresented the founding of Sikhism. Picture courtesy of Facebook/ P Kamalanathan 

I cannot believe the whole thing was unintentional. Still, I cannot understand. Why the need to demean, denigrate and disparage Hindus and Sikhs? Why the disinformation? What is the real agenda behind the lies? 

Deputy Education Minister P Kamalanathan even posted on his personal Facebook page on Tuesday: “I can't help but feel only someone who willfully and purposefully filled with ill intent would produce such a document”. 

UTM’s vice-chancellor Dr Wahid Omar made an official apology on Tuesday. 

He also pledged that the university will be conducting a thorough investigation into the incident, and due action would be taken as necessary. 

Prof Wahid said that UTM has a code of ethics for their academic staff, which "stresses the need to uphold true values and nobility of character in order to instill the right mindset and principles among staff and students, while encouraging respect for one another and inculcating understanding among diverse cultures, creed and religion". 

Obviously, the university’s code of ethics consists of just words stitched together without real purpose and meaning. This says a lot about UTM academics! 

I think they subscribed to pure nastiness. They wanted to manufacture hatred. They wanted to unleash hostility. 

Sadly, this is the state of the country today, a wounded Malaysia that is bleeding.

I hope the VC’s apology was genuine. I also hope this was an isolated incident and we shall not see a repeat of it, ever. Yet, uneasiness lingers. I don’t know why – but I don’t really believe what I have just written! 

To me, this insulting indignity inflicted upon Hindus and Sikhs is malevolent misrepresentation. 

On Tuesday, I was on the twenty-second floor of the Amoda Building in Jalan Imbi, KL to attend the TMIKL Toastmasters meeting – where I was the General Evaluator. I was glad I could be honest when giving my feedback on the meeting and I am happy I was at a Toastmasters club that prefers honesty. 

And I particularly enjoyed Ismail Omar’s roast on another member and friend, Col (Rtd) Zaki. The roast got its name from the verbal skewering the honoree gets, but not all the teasing is adverse. 

Sure, Ismail poked fun at the latter but he still showed voluminous respect. 

Overall, a good meeting.

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