Non-Muslims in the country should have a more open-minded approach towards the implementation of the ‘Imam Al-Nawawi’s 40 Hadith' module in public schools nationwide, says National Professors Council (MPN) senior fellow Prof Emeritus Datuk Dr Teo Kok Seong.
He said this was because the module specifically focused on Muslim students and teachers, and did not disrupt or challenge the understanding of non-Muslim students.
"The government's aim to use this module for Muslim students is evident, and those who object should first refer to the contents of the 'hadith'. It consists of teachings from the Quran conveyed by Prophet Muhammad, not additional teachings created arbitrarily.
"If we look into it, these teachings have existed for a long time, and focus on positive aspects, like promoting love for fellow humans, encouraging excellence in Islam, distinguishing between good and bad. These efforts are aimed at nurturing better human values among Muslim students. So, should we really oppose or object to such things?" he told Bernama.
The Education Ministry (MOE) launched the hadith module on Aug 19 with the aim of fostering the appreciation of hadith at the school level. It aims to promote compassion and improve religious understanding, especially among Muslim students and teachers.
The pilot programme will be implemented in 61 National Religious Secondary Schools (SMKA) and 228 Government-Assisted Religious Schools (SABK) throughout the country.
Despite clarifications that the module is for Muslim students and teachers only, it has caused controversy, particularly among non-Muslim followers, leading to various speculations.
Among those questioning the implementation of the module is Gerakan, even though its ally in the Perikatan Nasional (PN) coalition, PAS, supports the introduction of the initiative in schools nationwide.
If the module helps Muslim students develop good morals, it indirectly benefits the non-Muslim community, contributing to the country's prosperity, Teo said.
He added the act of objecting to the implementation of the module - which would be extended to schools under MOE next year - as a lack of understanding, because it failed to adequately recognise the diverse ethnic and religious composition of Malaysian society.
“This shows that we (in Malaysia) do not know one another, and when there is a lack of knowledge or understanding, it leads to suspicion and protests like this.
"Non-Muslim communities need not be concerned because the Constitution guarantees religious freedom in the country, allowing peaceful practice of all religions. So, instead of hastily forming opinions, let's focus on enhancing the nation-building process to foster mutual understanding," he said.
Meanwhile, Jessica Jawing, a 40-year-old mother of two, said that she does not have any concerns about introducing the hadith module in schools under the MOE, as long as it was in line with the genuine intentions and objectives of the initiative.
"We respect this decision, but schools, including principals, need to monitor its implementation to ensure that no teacher forces non-Muslim students to attend the class. It's not something that can be forced, and is meant only for Muslim students," said the journalist from a local newspaper in Kuching, Sarawak.
The Iban woman suggested that non-Muslim students in schools should be briefed regarding the initiative, so that they understood that the module was only intended for Muslim students and wouldn’t get confused, thinking it was a new subject mandatory for everyone.
"If possible, conduct these classes at different times, perhaps after school hours, as this would not raise concerns among other parents," said Jessica, whose children study in Form Four and Form Three.
Source: BERNAMA News Agency