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Quota, unquota

THE proposal by Tan Sri Abdul Khalid Ibrahim to allocate a 10% quota for non-bumiputera students in UiTM received much coverage in most of the Malay dailies.

In a report on 11 Aug 2008 titled Khalid Hina UiTM, Orang Melayu, Utusan Malaysia reported that the Higher Education Minister, Datuk Seri Khaled Nordin, chastised the Selangor menteri besar for being willing to sacrifice Malay special rights through his proposal.

“He (Khalid) talks of excellence and competition. Is the competition among current UiTM students insufficient? Can’t Malays just compete among Malays? Must it be that only when Chinese (students) are allowed in that Malays will know how to compete?” Khaled was reported to have said.

Khaled was further quoted: “If he (Khalid) wants to create unity by including the Indians and Chinese, why start here in UiTM? He should suggest only one school (to encourage unity). And it has to begin at the primary education level.”

Sinar Harian, in a 12 Aug 2008 article titled Khalid Kena Rujuk Sejarah: Dr Khir, quoted the former Selangor menteri besar Datuk Seri Dr Mohamad Khir Toyo as saying that Khalid and the Pakatan Rakyat state government do not need to “disrupt” UiTM’s special status as an educational institution for Malays and bumiputera, because doing so would only raise ill feelings among certain ethnic groups.

“The Acts and policies underlying the formation of UiTM are under the federal government’s purview and can’t be so easily changed. Don’t they know history? And why target a 52-year-old university?

“The government has created enough room for other ethnic groups to further their studies in public and private universities, so why disturb UiTM?” said Khir.

In an article titled Keistimewaan UiTM in Utusan Malaysia on 13 Aug 2008, Mohd Khuzairi Ismail wrote that the quota issue was not new, and was now being challenged yet again.

“The only difference is that this time, the challenge is made by a Malay leader who should have understood UiTM’s struggles to empower young Malays, and who should be defending against the numerous threats to this ethnic group’s honour that have become more frequent lately.”

Mohd Khuzairi argued that it was therefore unsurprising that some sections of society have been up in arms over the matter.

“Most importantly, the spirit shown by the 5,000 UiTM students who demonstrated against the proposal sends a message that the special rights of Malays in UiTM are evident, and should never be challenged.

“Whoever denies the special rights of Malays to further their studies in UiTM is not only transgressing ethnic boundaries, but also challenging the nation’s laws,” he wrote.

The other major issue of the week picked up by most of Malay dailies was the Bar Council forum, Conversion to Islam, on 9 Aug 2008.

Berita Harian, in its 13 Aug 2008 Peguam Syarie Menulis column, published an article titled Dialog Terurus Rungkai Kemusykilan Agama: Tindakan Majlis Peguam Anjur Forum Cetus Provokasi Kesabaran Melayu.

“The Islamic community is fully aware of and offended by the actions of the Bar Council for adamantly continuing with the forum Conversion to Islam last Saturday… This forum can really be described as a provocation, testing the Malay community’s patience, apart from bringing unrest and unease to Muslims in the country,” lawyer and columnist Zainul Rijal Abu Bakar wrote.

Zainul Rijal conceded that conversions to another religion would always spark polemical responses, but asked if a detailed study had been conducted on the percentage of families who actually face problems because of a conversion by a family member, in comparison with the total number of actual conversions to Islam.

He also questioned why personalities like (the prime minister’s wife) Datin Seri Jeanne Abdullah and Toh Puan Aishah Ong were not invited to talk about their positive experiences in converting to Islam.

“Is the Bar Council trying to only show one side of the story? Does the law not require us to hear from both sides?

“Sensitive discussions such as these should neither receive wide media coverage nor be held openly because it can only court controversy. Inter-religious dialogue should be encouraged, but not to the point where we belittle or insult other religions,” he argued.

In its 13 Aug 2008 editorial headlined Beri Amaran Terakhir Bersama Tindakan Tegas, Utusan Malaysia warned all parties not to conduct open forums that touch on ethnic and religious sensitivities.

“The ruckus and strong objection from the country’s Muslim community towards this controversial forum proves that religious issues are too sensitive to be touched on by any non-Muslim community.

“Numerous warnings have been issued so that what has been enshrined in the Federal Constitution is not discussed openly, yet these warnings have been flouted many times before.

“These warnings are not only for the Bar Council, but also for political parties or non-governmental organisations,” the newspaper said.

It concluded that if these warnings continued to be flouted, unpopular actions must be immediately taken, “using a firm and stern approach”.

“Since the March general elections, many issues laced with ethnic and religious sentiments have been raised by several parties. Even though these can still be contained, we are worried that should these issues be repeated, sooner or later the people will feel that the honour of their race and religion is being challenged.”

The column ended: “Should an ethnic problem arise that is not easily controlled, it will not be easy to restore calm. As such, the government must send a clear message to individuals or groups who wish to spark racial and religious issues, that they must be ready to face the consequences.” End of Article

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