Letter: A first-hand experience of the ‘Islamisation’ of a school

By Concerned Parent:

Not that this is unknown or new. However, as a parent, I find it quite disturbing that the ‘Islamisation’ of national schools has reached an alarming state. We had enrolled our daughter at a national school in Bandar Sri Damansara for Primary 1.

What was to be an eagerly anticipated ‘graduation’ into formal schooling turned out to be a worrying scenario that has caused us to rethink our future in this country as well as our plans for our kids.

We had, of course, heard of the instances of the growing ‘Islamic’ influence in national schools and some horror stories to go along with it. But perhaps we underestimated the level of abuse that was occurring.

Orientation was conducted on Jan 2 and we were told that all children were required to attend Arab language classes. Don’t get me wrong; I am of the opinion that learning a foreign language is beneficial.

However, in this case, it did not come across as such, but instead appeared to be a subtle attempt to reinforce “Islamic” principles on us – Muslims and non-Muslims alike. We insisted that the school exempted our children from the class. What perplexed us the most was the lack of options presented to non-Muslim students.

When we inquired, the response from the school was that there were no teachers for other language classes, namely Mandarin and Tamil. Also, we were told that the children need not worry about the Arab classes as it was purely language and there were no elements of religion in it – something that we came to discover was not true.
 
This became apparent when, this morning, one of the parents chanced upon the Arab language teacher in class. Prior to starting the lesson, the teacher made all the students rise and lift their hands to recite the ‘bismillah’ prayer and other chants. There was no attempt to inform the non-Muslim students that they did not need to do so.
 
Just imagine: these are impressionable seven-year-olds just out of kindergarten. The fact that there was no regard for the rights of the non-Muslim kids by these teachers was just unbelievable!

One could easily be led to think that this was part of a bigger plan to influence non-Muslim children into embracing Islamic way of life.

This should not be happening in national schools.

There was more to come. Not only was it necessary for the children (Muslims) to start off the assembly with an Islamic prayer, the teachers also made it a point to enforce this before and after recess.

The students would be ushered out of the classrooms and be made to line up prior to visiting the canteen.

But just before that, the ‘bismillah’ prayer is recited (again there were no attempts to inform the non-Muslims that they were not required to do so) and once recess is over, the Muslim students are again required to recite another prayer.

 All this is done together with the non-Muslim students.

Would this not confuse a child who is eager to learn, when they are constantly reminded that they should not do this and that?

There are a lot more examples but I just want to highlight the crux of the matter. I just cannot comprehend the need for all this [religious reinforcement] when, at national schools it is sound education and growth of the children that matters.
 
Religious needs are already met by the agama and moral studies classes, so why the need for Arab classes? What is the objective of these programmes?

Why is there no proper alternative for those who do not practise Islam?

What scares me the most is that this is being practised or implemented at the national level. If this is the case, then why talk of national integration and a new education blueprint? How can you achieve this with so many divisive policies?

To say I am disappointed is an understatement. I just hope that common sense will prevail – but as they say, common sense is not so common after all.

The school later did accede to our request to have the children segregated during Arab classes, but after having one too many encounters with the lackadaisical attitude of the teachers, we are not convinced.