THREATS to Islam, the tussle regarding mother tongue education, and celebrity weddings were some of the more prominent stories featured in the Malay-language press from 28 Dec 2008 to 1 Jan 2009.
Islam threatened, again
On 28 Dec 2008, Metro Ahad quoted Prime Minister Datuk Seri Abdullah Ahmad Badawi as saying the Home Ministry and the police should take instant action against a blog that allegedly insulted the prophet Muhammad. The blog is said to contain the picture of a Malay Malaysian woman, but it is believed that her image is being used as a decoy by the real blog operators. Abdullah said the rakyat should never do anything that could insult the beliefs of any race in this country.
Berita Harian reported on 30 Dec 2008 that Bukit Aman was calling on different parties to give statements on the case, which was being investigated under the Sedition Act. The woman was reported to have been detained in her Kota Damansara house the day before in order to assist in investigations.
Deputy Inspector-General of Police Tan Sri Ismail Omar then clarified that she was later released on police bail. The woman claims she had already made five police reports, and had also reported to the Malaysian Communications and Multimedia Commission (MCMC) on the blog.
On 31 Dec 2008, the same newspaper reported that the blog insulting the prophet Muhammad was hosted overseas, not in Malaysia. The deputy IGP said a special investigative team has been set up, led by Bukit Aman Commercial Crimes Investigation Division Director Datuk Koh Hong Sun.
The paper, on 30 Dec 2008, also reported on the handover of a memorandum by a group of non-governmental organisations (NGOs) in Georgetown, Penang, defending Malay rights. Approximately 4,000 members of various Malay-oriented NGOs gathered as the president of Yayasan Aminul Ummah Malaysia, Md Radzi Daud, submitted the memorandum to the Private Secretary of the Yang DiPertua Negeri, Shahul Hamid Abdul Kadir. The memorandum called for a defence of the purity of Islam, the position of the Malay rulers, the special rights of the Malays, and the Internal Security Act (ISA).
On 1 Jan 2009, Harian Metro reported that the Selangor Syarie Public Prosecutor, Muhamad Nazri Basrawi, would apply for the so-called “Malay messenger of Allah“, Abdul Kahar Ahmad Jalal, to be tried in absentia since the case was “special”. Abdul Kahar, who claims to be the “Malay rasul” (messenger of Allah), was brought to court on 27 July 2005 to face five charges under the Selangor Syariah Criminal Offences Enactment 1985. Abdul Kahar is believed to be hiding in Pahang.
Tongue-lashing on language in education
On 30 Dec 2008, Berita Harian reported that 25 unions and associations representing 350,000 teachers nationwide were unanimously opposed to the English for Teaching Mathematics and Science (ETeMS) policy. The collective had already sent a memorandum to the education minister and the education director-general to return the teaching of Science and Mathematics in primary schools to Bahasa Malaysia (BM) and mother tongue languages by 2011.
The coalition of national writers’ associations (Gapena) has also set 15 Feb 2009 as a deadline for it to take legal action against the government if ETeMS is continued.
The next day, Berita Harian reported on its front page, English increasingly stable, as evidenced in the nationwide results of the lower secondary assessment (PMR). The newspaper claimed that the ETeMS policy was working, since students scoring As for Mathematics increased to 25.6%, compared with an average of 22.1% in the previous five-year period.
Students scoring As for Science also increased to 17.2%, compared with an average of 16.4% from 2003 to 2007. A total of 51.2% of students chose to answer the Science paper in English, while 18% chose to answer bilingually (in English and Malay). Some 26.9% chose to answer the Mathematics paper in English, and 53.2% chose to answer it bilingually.
The paper’s editorial on the same day said, “This clearly shows that the ability of students to answer the Science and Mathematics papers in English is encouraging.” The editorial said even so, quality of education should be emphasised for continuous improvement. The editorial was nevertheless upbeat because Malaysia had risen from 56th place last year to 45th place this year among 129 countries in the Global Monitoring Index on education development.
The centerpiece for Harian Metro‘s 29 Dec 2008 front page showed pop icon Asmawi Ani (Mawi) and his bride, Nora’Asikin Rahmat (Ekin), taking a ride on a helicopter to their persandingan ceremony at Felda Taib Andak, Kulai, Johor. More than 20,000 guests, comprising fans and Felda settlers, attended the ceremony.
The adulation continued in Berita Harian‘s entertainment section, Hip, on 30 Dec 2008. In this two-page spread, Mawi said, “I’m relieved it’s all over and I hope there is no more malicious gossip about Ekin and me.”
A more controversial couple was featured on Harian Metro‘s 28 Dec 2008 front page: 32 year-old actress Rita Rudaini and 21-year-old Negeri Sembilan footballer Mohd Aidil Zafuan. The two had married in secret in South Thailand on 25 Feb 2008, but had disclosed their marriage to the public only in December 2008.
The Malay-language media has been awash with news about the couple’s marriage and the alleged displeasure of both sides of the family. The next day, Harian Metro quoted the president of the Malaysian Syarie laywers association, Zainul Rijal Abu Bakar, as saying Rita and Aidil could be fined a maximum of RM1,000 if they failed to give legitimate reasons for late registration of their marriage in Malaysia.