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AWSJ: Even as Islamic Schools Face Scrutiny, They Gain in Popularity in M'sia
By Leslie Lopez
23/10/2001 3:21 am Tue
[Ada satu kritikan halus yang tersirat dalam rencana ini. Cuba fikirkan
kenapa lebih banyak keganasan berlaku di negeri yang tidak banyak sekolah
ugama (yang dikuasai Umno) berbanding negeri yang ditadbir oleh PAS misalnya.
Malah penduduk 'negeri Umno' mengirim anak-anak mereka untuk belajar ke negeri
yang ditadbir oleh PAS walaupun jauh beratus-ratus kilometer. Sekolah ugama
lebih banyak baiknya dari buruknya (seandainya ada). Malangnya Mahathir
mahu memusnahkannya kerana kebaikan itu akan menelanjangkan kejahatannya.
Apabila semakin ramai rakyat celik ugama, akan tumbang regim Umno yang mengaku
sudah Islam sedangkan bekas TPM sendiri tidak diadili mengikut kaedah ugama.
The Asian Wall Street Journal
Even as Islamic Schools Face Scrutiny,
They Gain in Popularity in Malaysia
By LESLIE LOPEZ
Staff Reporter of THE WALL STREET JOURNAL
KAMPUNG PULAU MELAKA, Malaysia -- Hasrol Che Hussain makes no excuses
for the strict rules at the Darul Anuar Islamic school in this small
village in Malaysia's poor, rural Kelantan state.
"We don't allow free mixing of boys and girls because it is not
Islamic," says the Muslim teacher, as a speaker atop a nearby mosque
crackles to life with the slow and melodious chant of "Allahu Akbar!"
(God is Great).
Outside the mosque, young boys huddle over a large square tub filled
with water, washing their hands and feet before hustling inside for
midday prayers. Through a separate entrance, cordoned off by a plywood
partition, teenage girls covered from head to toe file into their own
section of the mosque.
Wearing a traditional white skullcap denoting that he has made the
Haj, or pilgrimage to Mecca, Mr. Hasrol declares: "We want our
students to be good Muslims."
Since the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks in the U.S., Islamic schools
around the world have come under scrutiny. Critics often characterize
the schools as breeding grounds for would-be Islamic militants, places
where students absorb rigid religious doctrine and are imbued with
political views that portray Muslims as the oppressed victims of the
West, especially the U.S.
But in Malaysia, a secular state whose 60% Muslim population has long
exemplified Southeast Asia's moderate style of Islam, schools like
Darul Anuar are nonetheless now in vogue.
Malaysian Muslim parents are increasingly sending their children to
such schools to shelter them from social problems -- such as drug
abuse in city schools and teenage pregnancies -- which are on the rise
in urban Malaysia. Many parents are also attracted by prestigious
Islamic schools that offer their children more rigorous academic
training than do government-run secular schools.
"A lot of children these days can't read the Quran" in the original
Arabic, says Mat Saad Ramli. "I want at least one child of mine to
have a very strong grounding in Islam."
A senior plantation company executive in Kuala Lumpur, Mr. Mat Saad
yanked his 16-year-old son out of a government school three years ago
and enrolled him at the elite Al-Imam International Institute in
Kelantan's capital of Kota Bharu. "You can really see the change, he
is really a very good and well-mannered person," Mr. Mat Saad says,
adding that the boy has become a positive influence on his three other
In Kelantan, increased demand has prompted more Islamic schools to
open and forced the best of the privately owned institutions to raise
their requirements for enrollment. Now, those schools are attracting
bright Muslim students from all over Malaysia. Currently, there are
more than 40,000 students in 92 Kelantan-based religious schools,
according to the state Islamic Foundation. Since 1994 the passing rate
for students taking government secondary school examinations in these
schools has averaged above 90%, significantly above the national
Still, officials in Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad's government say
they have doubts about whether the Islamic schools are benign,
particularly in Kelantan, where the state government is controlled by
Malaysia's main opposition party, Parti Islam SeMalaysia, or PAS.
Security officials contend that the loosely regulated schools -- many
of which are owned or run by PAS members -- may, indeed, spawn new
"Every morning children in these schools take oaths on the virtue of
jihad and mati sahid," says a senior government official, referring to
the Arabic words for struggle -- though jihad is often used to denote
a holy war -- and religious martyrdom. "The brainwashing starts at a
Each year, according to the Kelantan Islamic Foundation, which funds
many of the state's religious schools, about 250 students from
Kelantan go overseas to continue their Islamic studies. Many head for
Pakistan and some have spent time in Afghanistan for brief sabbaticals
in Taliban-run schools in recent years, government security officials
Some students return with degrees in religious studies only to find
that they can't land good jobs in Malaysia's market-driven economy.
Some end up as bureaucrats in the religious department of Malaysia's
civil service; others work as independent Islamic preachers or
teachers in private Islamic schools.
Malaysian security officials contend that some of these
foreign-trained teachers propagate radical views among their students.
And they want to tighten regulation and supervision of the religious
schools to protect multiethnic Malaysia from potential sectarian
conflict. Education Ministry officials can't say for sure how many
such institutions exist because no license or permit is currently
required to set up an Islamic school.
Security officials in Kuala Lumpur say that the curriculum in Islamic
schools is peppered with subtle antigovernment themes. Classroom
lessons and sermons after prayers at the school mosques often extol
the goal of creating a theocratic state in Malaysia, they say.
In late September, Malaysian police jailed one teacher from Darul
Anuar, Nik Adli Nik Aziz, and eight others for two years, alleging
that they were planning to overthrow Dr. Mahathir's government.
Another six alleged members of a group that police call the Kumpulan
Mujahedeen Malaysia, or KMM, were arrested this month under the
Internal Security Act, known as the ISA, which permits detention of
suspects for up to two years without formal charges or trial.
Mr. Nik Adli, who police allege heads the KMM, has denied the charge
and challenged the government to produce evidence of his allegedly
subversive activities. PAS leaders say the arrests are politically
motivated and allege that the detention of Mr. Nik Adli -- the son of
Kelantan chief minister Nik Aziz Nik Mat -- is intended to discredit
the increasingly popular Muslim party.
"On what basis are these allegations being made?" asks the turbaned
Datuk Nik Aziz in an interview. "It is without proof."
Teachers at Darul Anuar insist that politics isn't part of their
education agenda. Nik Omar, Darul Anuar's principal and brother of the
jailed Nik Adli, says his students were upset when his brother was
arrested. "They wanted to wear anti-ISA badges in protest. But we said
no because the school isn't the place for politics."
But political controversy hasn't dulled the Islamic schools' appeal
for many Malaysians, nor the Kelantan schools' popularity among Muslim
A relative economic backwater carpeted by rice fields interspersed
with small rubber plantations, Kelantan has long been an outpost for
strict and conservative Islamic views in Malaysia. Kelantanese
traveling to Mecca to perform the Haj often remained in Islam's holy
land for years to study the Quran. Many eventually became religious
leaders upon their return, heading local mosques that often doubled as
Islamic schools. By the early 1950s, Kelantan's schools were
attracting Muslims from Cambodia, Thailand and Brunei.
Today, their fame reaches farther. Muhamad bin Muhamad, a 20-year-old
student from Ghana, heard about Kelantan when studying in Pakistan and
enrolled in the Pasir Tumboh school outside Kota Bharu early this
There's nothing fancy about the premises. The school has 1,000
students who live in a compound of wooden huts on stilts. They use
outdoor toilets and eat in an open-sided pavilion, subsisting on a
simple diet of mainly fish and rice.
Mr. Muhamad concedes that the "facilities here aren't that good and it
takes some time learning the local language." But he adds that "in
Islam, we have to struggle." He plans to live in Kelantan for another
two years before going home.
At the Darul Anuar school, spread over four hectares and ringed by
tall coconut trees, more than 50% of the students come from outside
Kelantan. Azlin Abu Mutalib says her parents -- who live in Negeri
Sembilan state, 320 kilometers to the south -- sent her to Darul Anuar
hoping that she would get better grades, stay out of trouble and
receive proper religious instruction. The 15-year-old Azlin, who wears
the traditional Muslim tudung -- a long scarf that covers the head and
shoulders, but exposes the face -- says she doesn't mind the strict
rules at the school. "It is good here because we are forced to study