Sunday, April 02, 2006

Rewriting Our History

I have written on historical revisionism in our textbooks 3 months back. Previously it was about Ming Dynasty being a Islamic dynasty or that its emperors were Muslims.

Well, unsurprisingly, closer to home, there's plenty of revisionism in our local history taught in our secondary schools as well. This issue was raised no less than in our very own Parliament, and by a member of the Barisan Nasional government.

As reported by the Malay Mail as well as, the member of parliament (MP) for Kelana Jaya, Sdr Loh Seng Kok complained about “imbalanced” historical textbooks.

Loh said the syllabus of history textbooks ignored the contribution of non-bumiputeras and only emphasised on the Islamic civilisation. Terming it as "incomplete and imbalanced", he said the syllabus does not encourage critical thinking among the students.

"For instance, the fight against the Japanese Occupation during World War II is portrayed as only the effort of the Malays but ignored the role of Chinese and Indian Malaysians," he added. Furthermore, he said the syllabus from Form One to Form Five does not provide a deeper understanding of other civilisations.

Sdr Loh also called for “balance” for "five out of the 10 chapters in the Form Four history textbook only focused on the Islamic civilisation... In the school curriculum for Form One up to Form Five, Chinese and Indian civilisations are given casual treatment."

There should be a balance, so that the younger generation would be able to learn about other faiths and cultures." Loh felt that exposure to cultures and religious traditions, other than Islam, would open the minds of the younger generation to new ideas.

However, his call has not been treated kindly by some of his fellow members of the government parties, which unfortunately serves to point out why the revisionism is present in the first place. Outspoken UMNO politician, Mohamed Aziz of Sri Gading issued a caution to Loh, saying his words could be interpreted in a ‘dangerous’ way, although this has probably got more to do with the other half of Sdr Loh's speech whereby he also called for guidelines on prayer recitals and greater inter-faith discussions.

And as if on cue, the party that seems to attract plenty of members with way too much hot air, sent a team from Sdr Loh's own parliamentary constituency to present a show cause letter to their MP. 50 Umno Youth members, led by Kelana Jaya division chief Abdul Halim Samad, paid Sdr Loh a visit with the letter.

The MP was also purportedly told that Umno Youth would “take action” if he failed to respond to the letter within several days. Some in the group had brought along video cameras to record the brief meeting.

The Kelana Jaya division had apparently held a meeting to discuss the speech and concluded that Loh’s proposal had hurt the feelings of Malay Malaysians, who make up the majority of voters in the parliamentary constituency of the same name.

I half expect these idiots to bang down the doors of Sdr Loh's office with kris and parangs should he not “apologise” in due course. No wonder history needs to be revised to feed the egos of these dim-witted imbeciles.

But this blog isn't meant to comment on the sensibilities of politicians from UMNO Youth. What was interesting for me was this raised another conversation thread in BeritaMalaysia, a news and discussion mailing list – which potentially highlighted the extent of revisionism in our textbooks. These was an on-going debate as to whether Maharaja Lela, the famous person who assasinated JWW Birch, the first resident of Perak, was a freedom fighter and hence a hero (as depicted in today's textbooks), or a self-interested murderer, and hence a zero.

Well, it appears that back in 1964, when this scribe wasn't yet born and Uncle Yap, moderator and owner of BeritaMalaysia was sitting for his MCE examinations using Joginder Singh's book, history tells a different story. According to Uncle Yap, who himself is an avid collector of historical facts and often lodged at our National Archives,

...Maharaja Lela was a minor chieftain who was involved with the slave trade (yes, the smaller sized Orang Asli was then known as slave or 'sakai' in Malay); making a living catching escaped slaves and/or trading in slaves.

One of the first thing that Birch did on assuming his position as the First Resident of Perak (following th Pangkor Treaty) was to outlaw slavery; thereby shattering the rice-bowls of royal hangers-on like Maharaja Lela. One evening, some of the slave-traders plotted to kill Birch by spearing him when he was taking his bath in the river.

Today, Pasir Salak, the site of the murder is touted as the birthplace of Malay nationalism. The road in KL by the Merdeka Stadium, Birch Road was renamed Jalan Maharaja Lela, replacing the slayer with the slain. Villain becomes hero. The act of vengeance by someone who was deprived of his livelihood became a heroic act of anti-imperialism.

To quote Uncle Yap, “we have completely re-written history”. We aren't too different from the Japanese with regards to their own atrocities during World War II, aren't we?


Unknown said...

Lies and more lies.

Satu lagi Project BN?

Anonymous said...

The students nowadays only read the history books to pass this subject, regardless of their interests. During their higher education, memorising skill is tested on the Pengajian Malaysia subject, which is compulsory for all students. They only need to memorise all the 'FACT' and regurgitate them during exams. The true fact?! Why should we care? In this exam oriented society, EXAM is utmost important for all students. Period.

ps. This is what we are taught from young. Who should we blame?

YT Kuah said...

The above claim might need some primary references. :)

Anonymous said...

i'm the first anon above.
I knew this because I'm ONE of the students in ONE of the private U in Malaysia. That's why I've got first hand info + experience in Malaysian education scene.

september said...

it's getting worst isn't it.

Anonymous said...

I was told by a retired history teacher some years ago that only bumiputra academics are allowed to write history textbooks.

Anonymous said...

So this was indeed his-story, cerita dia :D

Later, they will say that Chinese and other races throughout the world came from the Malay Archipelago. They are the one and only - the ancestor of everyone :D

Anonymous said...

Uthman ibn Affan, the third Caliph of Islam, sent the first official Muslim envoy to China in 650. The envoy, headed by Sa'ad ibn Waqqas, arrived in the Tang capital, Chang'an, in 651 via the overseas route. Huis generally consider this date to be the official founding of Islam in China. The Ancient Record of the Tang Dynasty recorded the historic meeting, where the envoy greeted Emperor Gaozong of Tang China and tried to convert him to Islam. Although the envoy failed to convince the Emperor to embrace Islam, the Emperor allowed the envoy to prosthelyze in China and ordered the establishment of the first Chinese mosque in the capital to show his respect for the religion.

Arab people are first noted in Chinese written records, under the name Da shi in the annals of the Tang dynasty (618-907). Records dating from 713 speak of the arrival of a Da shi ambassador. It is recorded that in 758, a large Muslim settlement in Guangzhou erupted in unrest and fled. The community had constructed a large mosque (Huaisheng Si), destroyed by fire in 1314, and constructed in 1349-51; only ruins of a tower remain from the first building.

During the Tang Dynasty, a steady stream of Arab and Persian traders arrived in China through the silk road and the overseas route through the port of Quanzhou. Not all of the immigrants were Muslims, but many of those who stayed formed the basis of the Chinese Muslim population and the Hui ethnic group. The Arab and Persian immigrants introduced polo, their cuisine, their musical instruments, and their knowledge of medicine to China.

Song dynasty
During the Song Dynasty, Muslims in China dominated foreign trade to the south and west.

Yuan dynasty
The Yuan Dynasty embraced Islam. The Mongols elevated the status of Muslims versus the Chinese, and placed many Muslims in high-ranking posts instead of Confucian scholars, relying on Muslims to administer the empire. The state encouraged Muslim immigration, as Arab, Persian and Turkic immigration into China accelerated during this period.

Ming dynasty
Muslims continued to flourish in China during the Ming Dynasty. During Ming rule, the capital, Nanjing, was a center of Islamic learning.

Anonymous said...

One thing it doesnt make sense to me when I studied history is this, remember the lingua franca term they used? The Malay Sultanate is nothing but a puny power compared to the mighty Persian, Indian and Chinese empire. So why would they claim that they are using Malay? Doesnt make sense, I mean nowadays or in all history version, smaller countries always learn the language of the powerful, like nowadays, English. This is something been bothering me when I think about it.


Anonymous said...

Hmm, perhaps that's their way to promote Malay language among the people, as in "it has been a lingua franca since the Malacca Sultanate". So why you all dont want to learn Malay? Why you all learn English?

Nee Sern said...

Who controls the past controls the future.

Who controls the present controls the past.

~Orwell, George (1984)

Anonymous said...

I don't understand this whole thing about denying the past. Why can't we just accept it and move on.
I'm sure many bumis would agree to this, the only problem is convincing the 'powers-tht-be' of the same.
Who knows, by revealing the truth, our students might get more interested to learn history.
Heck, even i didnt know tht the birch incident was much more colorful than wht i was taught in school.

Anonymous said...

That's the problem, no one can accept what is the truth of history, especially with these people who are totally corrupted in the political arena. That is why you have many versions of perspective out there. The ruling party believes that by revealing too much it will cause problems to their special privillege. Since they did mention time and again in history to teach people not to question what they do. That they are entitled to everything by birthright. Which sounds to me like a silent dictatorship and oppression to the minority.

Anonymous said...


Anonymous said...

Everything also malays are the greatest... how to improve? Proud... proud... proud... yeahlah you are the greatest lah, you win-lah. Are you satisfy, now?

Anonymous said...

Yeah man, nothing as in what happened to the locals and stuff like that. Is it totally devoid of civilizations? Are those locals before Parameswara babarians? Things doesnt really add up do they? Besides, the period before the coming of the so called exiled ruler of Srivijaya has so many holes in it that it collapse onto itself. That part of the history is a complete blur to me if you ask me. The Malacca Sultanate is written clear because, well it glorifies the Malay power woohoooo we are great, bla bla bla. So 1403 yeah what happened some place there is really blur if you ask me.


Anonymous said...

after searching in google for maharaja sounds so discretionary...malays rule?
r u kiddin?..
anyway, malaysian history textbook is the worst textbook on earth..alot of the info on the heroes in it is practically fake..believe me.

Anonymous said...

i agree our textbooks, especially history books needs to be rewritten. many facts crossed with fictions...i agree that malaysia today was created by all, i mean ALL malays, chinese, indians, orang asli, ibans, kadazans, thais, indonesians, british..etc. well just say ALL. but don't blame one race like Anonymous said on 4/05/2006 11:50 am evrything also malays are the greatest..this type of comment is not helping..chinese people in China don't even know their own history especially about the boy that stopped the tank incident but the whole world knows about point is blame the politician! these buggers (UMNO, PKR, DAP, PAS, MCA, MIC) just dont do their job but only keep blabbering about how great they are and blaming each other..they should work together to build a country, wether as government or as opposition, not trying to take over the country every single day. wait until elections lah..a simple situation about correcting high school textbook is overcome by sodomy case, alyantula case, anwar becoming PM, DAP is fighting with PAS...etc. I'm pretty bored of these stuffs..they don't do their work but still get paid as wakil rakyats or menteri. i blame ALL. as of which race is greater, in my high school, i call everyone higher ranking Sir, wether he's chinese, malay or indian. my school strive with our motto "Serve to Lead"...

Anonymous said...

Why do we learn history? We always here the saying "History repeats itself" So I guess to learn not to make the same mistakes and to improve the future based on the past. But we do not really know if whatever we read is the actual truth, its mere interpretation from the writer's point of view. So...

Anonymous said...

At least Maharaja lela is fighting for his land, his people.

I have heard back then, Yap ah loy, was in fact a gangster (kongsi gelap head) who were made rich from taking over tin mines after Brits left. not exactly a hero there either...

more like a zero...

Anonymous said...

Don't talk about Malaysian Malays here change histoli la..Lee Kuan Yew oso change Singapore's history lo...

forget history la...u all die oso by 3rd generation ur own flesh and blood will never come visit ur grave lo. In the end of the day, no one cares about histoli loo except History channel...haha

Anonymous said...

The History that we learn from school is not a HISTORY but just a Cerita Rekaan Semata-mata!!
There's alot of unmatched records/information of Malay History and doubt on in all. Example: the date where Portuguese Conquest of Malacca, the so-called Puteri Hang Lipoh and many more. As there are no proper record and evidences.

As i still remember my form Four history lesson where we was force to study the whole chapter of Islamic civilisation....which was very complicated and hard to understands. Not only the Non-muslim students had the difficulties to understand but the Malay students also facing the same problems. I do felt that, it's was unbalance because it's too deep and details about the Islamic civilization's chapter. If compare with Hindu/Buddhism civilization it's was just one or two pages.