15 August 2019

To Jawi or Not to Jawi?

By Johan Ishak

TO JAWI OR NOT TO JAWI? That is the question many are unnecessarily questioning when there are loads of other issues worth thinking about. The fact that this article is written is already a waste of time. An article about mathematics, coding, entrepreneurship, work-life balance, civic or even e-Games would have been a better subject in the context of contemporary needs of our society. So, why question Jawi?

There needs to be a clear comprehension about what Jawi represents. Historically, considering its Arabic origin, it is probably fair to assume its close relationship with Islam. That is true because the use of Jawi in this land is dated way back to the 1400 or even earlier when the Muslim Arab traders came over for both, trade and spreading Islam. However, that strong perception is critically defined by virtue of time frame. Had we gone deep into history, the Jawi characters had even existed before Islam came into existence. Arabic is a branch of Aramaic, that is also the source of Hebrew. So, we can also easily say that this is an act of Jewish indoctrination (Pun intended). But, why do we associate it religiously? After all, isn't the numbering system of 1 to 9 came from Arabic as well? So, why question Jawi?

The sense of cultural identity can be defined by many aspects. Although linguistic or literature are not the only factors, they are indeed a common set of factors that many have accepted in identifying a particular nation. If you speak Japanese, you are most likely from Japan. If you speak Hokkien, you are most likely the decendents of the people of Fu-Chian. The Muslims, Christians and Jews of Turkey all speak and write Turkish. The Chinese in Thailand speak and write in Siamese. However, when you can speak French, you can either be French, Canadian, Swiss, Polynesian or even Tunisian. If you can speak Spanish, you can come from any country from the entire continent of South America except for Brazil. Really, Jawi isn't a big deal. So, why question Jawi?

In this day and age, art is forgotten quite pervasively. Ancient civilisations grew quite naturally because of how art was embraced. Art contributes to the diversity of cuture and Jawi is an art. The diversity of cultural elements is what makes culture, a culture. So, why not celebrate this diversity? Does writing in Roman makes us less Malaysian? If it does, why don't we question our irreversable use of Roman alphabets? If it doesn't (make us less Malaysian), why do we question Jawi that actually makes us more Malaysian in the context of national history? So, why question Jawi?

The emotional attachment one has to his or her origin often provides the basis to agree or disagree to certain policies. A Malay is likely to support Jawi and a non-Malay is likely to reject Jawi. The ability of how such emotional attachment can be disregarded is actually the measurement of tolerance. Like it or not, we are a multilingual, multireligion, multiethnic and multicultural society. Accepting a cultural heritage of this land like Jawi is also an act of tolerance. If, as a nation, we can accept the diversity of schooling methods that include Sekolah Jenis Kebangsaan (vernacular schools), convent schools or even legally operated Tahfiz or Sekolah Agama (Islamic Schools), then accepting Jawi that is a mere extension of that variation should not be a problem. So, why question Jawi?

The issue of overloading kids with many subjects to learn is probably the lamest excuse ever. Parents have been pressuring kids with so many expectations since the 80's. How many of us have been forced to learn piano, golf, ballet, Tae Kwan Do, Kumon, English 1119 and the numerous tuitions. They not only cost money but also time. Infact, they also contribute to the stress level of our youth. Don't we always say that the Youth is the best stage in life to absorb knowledge most effectively and efficiently? What happened to that confidence? Suddenly Jawi erases all that high expectations? So, why question Jawi?

But seriously, why? (... question Jawi)


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