Hornbill Unleashed

October 25, 2011

Teaching intellectual honesty in schools

Filed under: religion — Hornbill Unleashed @ 12:00 AM
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AB Sulaiman

The current hot item capturing the spotlight is that of Aziz Bari, a professor of law at International Islamic University, who was suspended from his post for airing some legal views involving the sultan of Selangor. Aziz was expressing a point of law and did not commit any civil crime. But the rector of the Universiti Islam Antarabangsa (UIA) gave him a show-cause letter anyway.

Previous to this it has been author Hatijah Aam who wrote ‘Seks Islam; Perangi Yahudi Untuk Kembalikan Seks Islam Kepada Dunia’ (Islamic Sex; fighting against Jews to return Islamic sex to the world). Hatijah has categorised sex or the act of procreation into ‘Islamic’ (and thereby ‘non-Islamic’?). This is most bizarre. What on earth is ‘Islamic sex’ anyway?

Her call for fighting the Jews in her effort to propagate Islamic sex is equally bizarre to say the least. Similarly, why are the Jews dragged into her sexual philosophies and experiences?

Last month it was Higher Education Minister Khaled Nordin, who said that the country’s universities are ‘not ready’ for evaluation when the Times Higher Education (THE) World University Rankings did not place any of our 20-odd public universities within its top four hundred for 2011-2012.

Khaled’s (left) claim that our universities are not ready is nonsensical. Independent international surveyors like THE do not wait for their subject institutions to be ready. In any case had Universiti Malaya secured say the 40th position (as was the case with the National University of Singapore, UM’s sister university) Khaled would be screaming the loudest with delight; followed perhaps by Najib Abdul Razak declaring a public holiday.

usm apex university 040908 mohamed khaled nordinThe month before, the country was debating Mat Sabu’s contention that quite probably the heroes of the Bukit Kepong incident in 1955 were the attackers led by Mohammad Indera, and not the policemen defending the police station. Mat Sabu, like Aziz above, was merely airing an opinion. You can take it or leave it. But with a reported one thousand police reports made, Mat Sabu is now under close observation and scrutiny from pro-government organisations.

All this while the ulama and some well meaning Malay-Muslims have been saying that Muslims who are not knowledgeable enough about Islam should not make any comments or critiques about it. More so for the non-Muslims who are deemed totally ignorant about this great religion.

Ketuanan Melayu caught in confusion

What’s going on? What do all these snippets (plus many thousands of similar others) represent? To my mind it is that the genericketuanan Melayu polity is caught in confusion and contradiction, and is losing any sense of good and sound human logic. So it tends to be judgmental and syllogistic in its reasoning habits and procedures and these tend to lead to errors and mistakes.

Allow me to digress to briefly explain my contention.

In human logic, value judgment is when a fact, thing, theory, content or proposition is given a judgment so as to make the statement to be given ‘value’, ie either true or false. In everyday terms when a person is faces a fact he immediately jumps to conclusions by saying the fact is good or bad, true or false without first giving any evaluation or examination.

For example Aziz made a statement about the sultan of Selangor who had earlier issued a decree relating to the action of the Selangor Islamic Affairs Department’s search of the Damansara Utama Methodist Church. That Aziz made the comments about the sultan’s decree is the fact or issue in question.

azlanHis employer, UIA, did not like his action, citing it as going against the university’s interests. This is the ‘value judgment’ bit of his comments.

Khaled’s protestation that Malaysian universities are not ready for ranking is another solid example of a judgmental statement.

Syllogism is when a person makes one indefinite (i.e. unsubstantiated) claim, connects it with another equally indefinite claim, and then comes to a conclusion. As the conclusion is based on the first two unsubstantiated claims it can’t be conclusive. For example: All cats have tails; all things with tails are four legged; all cats are therefore four legged. And: I walk around a golf course, a ball hits me on the head. Therefore golf is a dangerous game’.

Suspicious tools of logic

Value judgment and syllogism are two highly suspicious tools of logic for they appear tantalisingly true at first, but under closer scrutiny would usually lead to quite wrong conclusions.

Unhappily I note that the mainstream Malay mentality is decked with them both. Witness the Malays’ judgmental and syllogistic world views of them:

  • The Malays are the luckiest race in the world.
  • Islam is the only religion acceptable to God Almighty.
  • There are only right and wrong in the world.
  • The Malay, Islam and the government are always right.

Human psychologists say that this thinking is often known as the traditional type, as opposed to the rational and scientific types.

The important thing to note though is that traditional thinking does not have capacity to realise its own mistakes. In other words this type of thinker thinks he is right all the time, for his mind has not got the avenue to realise that he can be wrong.

To use the same list above, the Malays have not got the mental avenue to realise the following ‘mistakes’:

  • Malay is one out of many thousands of ethnic groups in the world with each claiming it is the luckiest. The Malay claim it is the luckiest would therefore require a lot of convincing from the thousands of other groups.
  • Islam is one major religion, this is beyond doubt. But to say it is the only religion accepted by God would again require a lot of convincing from believers of other religions.
  • In between right and wrong there can be many million maybes; for in reality what is right to one is wrong to another.
  • The claim that the Malay, Islam and the government are always right is self-generated: a self-praise thereby non-objective, non-rational and non-scientific. Let another person from another culture substantiate and support this grandiose claim, then perhaps this self-praise can be justified.

In the absence of the avenue of realising its mistakes any views which might differ or in conflict or contradiction with the accepted ones are thoroughly dismissed and denied with the carriers of the message given character assassination.

Intellectually dishonest

This inability of realising its own mistakes and blatant use of blanket denial would provide further ‘proof’ that this thinking is judgmental and syllogistic. It is delusional and intellectually dishonest. Malays going through life with this judgmental and syllogistic mental norm are likewise intellectually dishonest.

Detractors might say that my contention is hogwash. In the event, let’s bring the favourite Malay rallying call, motto and ideology ‘Untuk agama, bangsa, dan negara’ to the fore.

azlanIn this country theketuanan Melayu has lived by this motto. But the results are pathetic: the Malays are still economically (and psychologically) backward; the Islamic religion is slowly but surely overtaken by the extremists; and the economic viability and sustainability of the country are getting painful and debilitating body blows. The fact of the matter is that race and religion are redundant items in a country’s progress and passage to the future.

Internationally ‘Untuk agama bangs dan negara’ (or its local equivalent) fares no better. Pakistan tried, but failed. Libya has just crumbled. The Middle East countries and other North African nations are now trying to get out of the crutches of religion as another example.

To quote Charles de Gaulle, countries have no friends, but it has only national interests. It appears that religion and race are not ‘friends’ to a country for they do not promote national interests. Instead they tend to destroy them.

What then makes the Malay mind, the mind that effectively runs the country and formulates all public policies, so full of delusion and intellectual dishonesty? Another string of possible answers come to the fore: lack of experience, low education standards, indoctrination, coercion – another way of saying that he is ignorant.

Whatever it is to me, it confirms my contention that the average Malay mind is judgmental, syllogistic, and thereby unable to be intellectually honest!

Breaking the control of judgmental thinking

This brings me to the main focus of this writing. At some point in time we i.e. the more rational segment of the population, will have to break the control of judgmental and syllogistic thinking, of traditional thinking. We have to educate our young to think less subjectively but more objectively, rationally and scientifically.

In comes the Kempen Sejarah Malaysia Sebenar (KSMS), a civic society comprising many NGOs and concerned individuals. This civic society has taken note of the following recent developments in schools:

  • History is to be made a compulsory subject.
  • The present history textbooks have been modified every ten years or so.
  • The current editions have been noted to contain many errors, half-truths, omissions and selective hyperbolism.
  • They lay heavy, very heavy, emphasis on Malay and Islamic history.

In other words, the latest history books have been doctored to suit the perception and interest (and the judgments and values) of the ketuanan Melayu polity.

This is a sad situation for the following reasons:

  • These books are not at all objective in their presentation. In fact they are subjectively presented. To quote one history textbook writer, only ‘positive’ history is given emphasis. (What is ‘positive’ history?)
  • They feed the already hyperbolic tendency of Malay nationalism (or is it racism?).
  • They are not conducive to the long-term growth and development of the country.

In short the view is that with the present curriculum and accompanying textbooks, the government is educating the young generation with prejudices and other imperfections of the past.

KSMS wants nothing of this sort, for this does amount to supporting intellectual dishonesty, certainly not the way to develop the mind of the young. This young generation is the inheritors of the country’s future, so they deserve something better from us. It is our duty and responsibility therefore to prepare them to take over from us.

One way for doing this is for us to develop their minds to be strong and competitive, in this context by us teaching them history objectively, rationally and scientifically. As the journey of a thousand miles begins with the first step, KSMS believes that this Malaysian journey begins with teaching objective, rational and scientific history to our young.

You never know, but perhaps with our young given good intellectual grounding, people like Aziz Bari and Mat Sabu can find it easier to further the interest of the country’s intellectual development. People like Khaled Nordin, Hatijah Aam and the well meaning ulama could perhaps ponder over the intellectual deficiency and dishonesty of their ways.

AB SULAIMAN is an observer of human traits and foibles, especially within the context of religion and culture. As a liberal, he marvels at the way orthodoxy fights to maintain its credibility in a devilishly fast-changing world. He hopes to provide some understanding to the issues at hand and wherever possible, suggest some solutions. He holds a Bachelor in Social Sciences (Leicester, UK) and a Diploma in Public Administration, Universiti Malaya


  1. If anyone has intellectual honesty, Rais Yatim is the guy …

    He might be the next CM of Negeri 9 as rumors are hot now the present CM might get lost for a bouquet of misadventures. Rais can turn Negeri 9 to Negeri 6!

    Comment by RM170 per kilo sugar — October 26, 2011 @ 9:17 PM | Reply

  2. Some day, parents of students might want to take the Minister of Education for deliberately teaching their children wrong ‘facts’.

    Comment by lawrencek1 — October 26, 2011 @ 5:48 AM | Reply

  3. “A lazy society will soon become extinct …. laziness + tongkat = parasites “

    Comment by Tigeryk — October 25, 2011 @ 4:23 AM | Reply

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