THE ISLAMIC AND MALAY-CENTRIC NATURE OF OUR HISTORY TEXTBOOKS

Ranjit Singh Malhi

PRESENTATION OUTLINE
1. Objectives of History Teaching. 2. Biased History Textbooks. 3. Half-Truths and Factual Errors in Our History Textbooks. 4. “Historical Death” of Yap Ah Loy and Malaysian Freedom Fighters. 5. Ketuanan Melayu and Special Position of Malays. 6. Recommendations.

“We lie to our students. We lie to them by omitting parts of our history; by reinventing other parts; by glamourising aspects of it at the expense of other aspects. Our youth are not given the whole picture; not told the true story.”
 Ms. Johnson Nga (ex-principal
of Methodist Girls Secondary School, Malacca)

OBJECTIVES OF HISTORY TEACHING
● Provide an objective, truthful and balanced account of Malaysian and World History
● Promote inter-ethnic relations and forge greater national unity ● Develop a sense of national identity and instil patriotism ● Promote critical thinking among students

GOOD HISTORY TEXTBOOKS
● Factually accurate
● Generally objective ● Well-balanced

● Devoid of value judgements

“All serious historical writing must respect all nations, ethnic groups, religions and cultures. ... The historian’s role is not to make value judgements about historical facts but to try to establish them more accurately ...”
Muhammad Adnan Bakhit History of Humanity, Vol.4, UNESCO,2000

OUR HISTORY TEXTBOOKS
● Islamic and Malay-centric biased
● Some half-truths ● Numerous factual errors and contradictions ● Politically motivated

BIASED HISTORY TEXTBOOKS
1. Downplay the roles of the non-Malays in the development of our nation and its independence. 2. Scant attention given to the contribution of the Chinese and Indians in the development of the tin mining and rubber industries.

3. Lopsided emphasis on Islamic Civilization.

• Five out of ten chapters (116 out of
284 pages or 41%) of the current Form Four history textbook deal with Islamic history

• Earlier Form 4 history textbook had
only one chapter (39 out of 231 pages or 17%) on Islamic history

• Quotation from the Quran (page
101) besides Islamic teachings and religious terms

• Undue emphasis given to trivial
matters and unimportant personalities which are of no historical significance (e.g. Hanif religion, al-Basus War, Abu Lahab and Bilal bin Rafah)

4. Do not tell the whole truth.

• Omits the fact that the founder of
Malacca (Parameswara) was a Hindu prince from Palembang who died a Hindu

• Gives wrong impression that
Indian-Gurkha, Australian and British soldiers did not fight courageously in defending Malaya during the Japanese onslaught, unlike the Malay Regiment

HALF-TRUTH
“Tentera British di Tanah Melayu yang terdiri daripada askar-askar India-Gurkha, Australia dan British tidak mampu menyekat kemaraan tentera Jepun. Mereka terpaksa berundur ke selatan. Bandar-bandar utama dari utara ke selatan jatuh satu per satu ke tangan tentera Jepun. Di samping itu, tentera British sememangnya tidak berhasrat mempertahankan Tanah Melayu dengan bersungguh-sungguh kecuali Singapura. Tumpuan mereka ialah mempertahankan negara Britain daripada serangan tentera Paksi di Eropah. Sebaliknya, Rejimen Askar Melayu pimpinan Leftenan Adnan telah berjuang bermati-matian mempertahankan Tanah Melayu.”

Form 3 History Textbook, page 11

HISTORICAL TRUTH
● Thousands of Punjabi (mainly Sikhs), Gurkha,

British and Australian soldiers died defending Malaya during the Japanese onslaught ● In the Battle of Kampar, Indian-Gurkha and British soldiers fought courageously and temporarily halted the advance of Japanese ● 33 out of 232 names on Tugu Negara are Sikhs

5. Current Form Four textbook has reduced more than 25% the amount of text related to Christianity, Hinduism, Buddhism, Confucianism and Taoism as compared to the earlier textbook (from about 1115 words to about 832 words).

Topic
Hinduism Buddhism Confucianism Taoism

1991 Edition
c. 275 words c. 283 words c. 337 words c. 220 words

2002 Edition
c. 202 words c. 165 words c. 100 words c. 151 words

Christianity

c. 237 words

c. 214 words

6. No coverage of some famous

Malaysian freedom fighters such as Gurchan Singh (“Lion of Malaya”) and Sybil Karthigesu who resisted the Japanese Occupation of Malaya.

GURCHAN SINGH
● Gurchan wrote and secretly distributed a newspaper during the Japanese Occupation of Malaya

● His wartime exploits were contained in a textbook, Heroes of Malaya, widely used in Malayan schools (1950s)

SYBIL KARTHIGESU
● Sybil Karthigesu and her husband treated wounded guerrillas of the Malayan People’s Anti-Japanese Army

● Although tortured by the Japanese, she did not give up ● A woman of principle with tremendous courage

YAP AH LOY
1. Current Form 2 history textbook (page 153) has downplayed the role of Yap Ah Loy in developing Kuala Lumpur. It has just one sentence (not even in the main text) on Yap Ah Loy: “Yap Ah Loy antara orang yang bertanggungjawab membangunkan Kuala Lumpur.”

HISTORICAL IMPORTANCE OF YAP AH LOY
“ ... his [Yap Ah Loy] perseverance

alone, I believe, has kept the Chinese in the country [Malaya].”
 Frank Swettenham

“Down to 1879, Yap Ah Loy was Mr. Kuala Lumpur.”
 J. M. Gullick

“Yap Ah Loy did more than anyone to establish the little township destined to become Malaya’s capital.”
 J. Kennedy

“Kuala Lumpur was another town created by the enterprise of the Chinese.”
 Margaret Shennan

FACTUAL ERRORS IN HISTORY TEXTBOOKS
Event Textbook Authoritative Sources 1775 (Encyclopaedia Britannica, Daniel Roselle) Outbreak of 1776 American War of (Form 5, p. 67) Independence Date of formation of Sabah Alliance Party

1961 1962 (Cecilia Leong, (Form 5, p. 143) A.J. Stockwell)

Age at which 39 years Siddharta (Form 4, p. 65) Gautama started searching for the truth about life

29 years (Encyclopaedia Britannica, Daniel Roselle, T. Walter. Wallbank, et al.)

VALUE JUDGEMENTS IN OUR FORM FOUR HISTORY TEXTBOOK
● Baginda merupakan ketua keluarga yang
patut dicontohi kerana kepimpinannya serta sifat pengasihnya dan timbang rasanya.

● Kemunculan tamadun Islam memberi
rahmat kepada seluruh manusia …. ● … unsur-unsur Islam boleh dipraktikkan dalam sesebuah negara yang terdiri daripada berbilang bangsa dan agama.

CHRISTIANITY IN HISTORY TEXTBOOK
● Bagi penganut Kristian, agama ini

dikatakan telah diasaskan oleh Jesus Christ yang berasal dari Jerusalem
● No main teachings of Christianity, unlike

earlier textbook
● Coverage reduced by about 10%

Form 4 History Textbook, page 66

KETUANAN MELAYU
● Concept introduced in current Form 3

textbook (page 45)
● Ketuanan Melayu ditakrifkan sebagai

semangat cinta akan apa saja yang berkaitan dengan bangsa Melayu seperti hak politik, bahasa, kebudayaan, warisan, adat istiadat dan tanah air

IMPLICATIONS OF KETUANAN MELAYU

● Malay dominance
● Malays are the “masters” ● Non-Malays are “pendatang”

Ringkasnya, kemajuan dan kemakmuran Tanah Melayu telah berjaya menarik minat imigran untuk datang ke sini dan keadaan ini berterusan hingga kini. Kita seharusnya berbangga dengan negara kita yang menjadi tumpuan pendatang asing kerana kekayaan dan kemakmurannya. Di satu sudut yang lain pula, masyarakat tempatan seharusnya lebih giat, berinisiatif dan bersedia mengusahakan sendiri kekayaan negara, terutamanya bagi mereka yang tidak bermodal besar. Jika tidak, orang asing yang sentiasa mengintai peluang untuk mengambil ruang tersebut, akan mengambil alih peranan kita, seperti yang berlaku pada hari ini. Form Five History Textbook, page 255

SPECIAL POSITION OF MALAYS
● A temporary measure to ensure their [Malay] survival in the modern competitive world ● A temporary “handicap” as in golf ● Should not apply in perpetuity Tun Dr. Ismail bin Abdul Rahman

RECOMMENDATIONS
1. The Form 1-5 History textbooks should be reviewed to ensure factual accuracy and consistency, objectivity and a balanced account of our nation's history.

2. The advisory panel and writers should be drawn from various ethnic groups. 3. History textbooks should be devoid of value judgements.

4. Writers chosen should be those who have content mastery, are meticulous (pay attention to details) and with a proven track record.
5. The teaching and learning of History should be geared towards enhancing deep learning, critical thinking, information literacy and presentation skills of our students and not merely for memorization and to pass exams.

6. History should be taught in a lively and interesting manner using various instructional strategies (e.g. debates, discussions, group presentations, document studies, video clips) and not limited to the traditional lecture method. Students should not be mere spectators in the teaching and learning process. Active learning should be promoted.

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