KUALA LUMPUR - Some 300 Muslim students gathered on Wednesday (Jan 1) to protest against Chinese educationist group Dong Zong for opposing a Malaysian government's plan to introduce Jawi writing in Chinese and Tamil schools.
The peaceful gathering, organised by the Malaysian Muslim Students Coalition (Gamis), was held despite a warning by the police on Tuesday (Dec 31) that the organiser failed to obtained a permit from Kuala Lumpur City Hall and the police for the march.
Police did not interfere with the protest held outside a popular mall in downtown Kuala Lumur. The college students held up placards and banners while listening to speeches by several speakers.
One large banner in Jawi, complete with a clenched fist painted in red, read, 'People, rise to defend Jawi'. A placard read: 'Undergraduates rise to defend Jawi'.
Earlier, some 150 students had assembled at the historic Masjid Jamek Kuala Lumpur mosque and were planning to march to the mall nearby. But they were advised against doing so by Gamis president Saifullah Baiduri, MalayMail online news reported, because holding a march without a proper permit is forbidden by a local law.
Ethnic tensions rose last week after Chinese education groups - the United Chinese Schools Teachers' Association (Jiao Zong) and the United Chinese School Committees' Association (Dong Zong) - planned to hold a protest congress against Jawi's introduction.
There are more than 1,200 Chinese and 523 Tamil primary schools in Malaysia that use either Mandarin or Tamil as the medium of instruction.
In August, the ministry surprised most people by saying it would include Jawi writing in the Year 4 (Primary 4) syllabus of Bahasa Melayu in the vernacular schools, raising concerns over creeping Islamisation.
These vernacular schools are run independently of national schools, and where the students, mainly Malays, are taught Jawi writing as part of Islamic studies.
The police obtained a court order to stop the congress planned by the Chinese education groups, but allowed a National Jawi Congress to proceed on Sunday.
The organisers of Sunday's congress that included prominent political activists urged the government to put on hold the teaching of a Jawi calligraphy module in the vernacular schools.