Saturday, January 12, 2008

Songkok Issue of the Prefectorial Board of English College

Today right after i woke up, I received a SMS from my friend that the songkok issue has turned into a national issue. I am not surprise about this turning into a national issue since I know a few of them don't want to wear it as they & their parents see it as a headgear for Malay & the wearing of songkok is Malaynisation. I also get to see the letter of complaint by the parent from Uncle Lim's blog :

by a JB EC parent

I have a query for you about the English College, Johor Bahru, which is now also known as Maktab Sultan Abu Bakar.

My son who is in Form Five this year, has been a Prefect in EC
since he was in Form Two. He has always been an exemplary student, as well has won praise from many teachers for his exemplary conduct and commitment to his duties and studies. He is also a member of the ExCo of the Prefectorial Board.

Recently, in the beginning of this year, there was an instruction from the school, which I believe came from the teacher advisor to the Prefectorial Board, that Prefects have to start wearing the Songkok as part of the official uniform. At first, the instruction was that it would only be required during “official functions” like school assemblies and during interschool events or major events like sports day and speech day. Hoever, this has now been revised to include daily prefectorial duties.

There are reasons to believe that the practice of getting Prefects to wear the Songkok, is a prelude to getting ALL the students of the school to eventually follow suit.

My son, after conferring with me, has decided that he will NOT wear the Songkok. He is willing to resign from the Prefectorial Board if forced to wear the Songkok.

The rationale behind his refusal, which I stongly support, is that the Songkok is an emblem of the MALAY identity. As non-Malays, he should not be forced to don attire which does not reflect his true identity.

Also, since the Constitution defines Malay as someone who is Muslim, it may give others the wrong impression that he may be Muslim. Although, at first thought, this may sound a bit far-fetched, as the complexion of a Chinese is very different from that of a Malay. But it is also about principle and of providing a precedent. What of the case of a dark-skinned Chinese, or even an Indian, who wears a songkok? Will they be mistaken for Malays?

The issue is also that of “stumbling others.” My son is a devout
Christian, and has been on two trips overseas in the past two years on mission outreaches, to help the poor, and to spread the Gospel. In Christianity, there are exhortations to Christians not to “stumble your brothers.” Apostle Paul had written in the case when food which had been offered to idols should not be consumed esp in the presence of Christian brothers who are not strong in the faith. Perhaps the wearing of the Songkok may also lead others to stumble, as the songkok is associated with Malay identity, and Malays are invariably Muslim. People who see my son wearing a songkok may think that he is a Malay, and thus a Muslim.

There will be those Malays who wish to enforce their culture, albeit in a creeping fashion, unto others, who may defend the move to enforce the songkok, claiming that the Songkok is a National identity, rather than a Malay or Muslim identity.

To that, I ask why:

- the songkok is part of the uniform of the Royal Malay Regiment, and not of say the rangers and others.
- the songkok is worn by Malays who go for Friday prayers, and not on other days.
- the songkok is worn by Malays on Hari Raya and Hari Raya Haji, but NOT on Hari Merdeka.

In fact, the songkok is identified with Malay cultural dress, just as
the cheongsam is with Chinese, and the saree with Indian. And just as the tudung is for Malays, so too the turban is for Sikhs.

IF the rationale behind the move to enforce students is “uniformity” then are Sikhs exempt from wearing them? Where then would be the uniformity?

My other contention, and which should probably be more IN THE INTEREST OF THE MALAY MUSLIM COMMUNITY, is that my son’s refusal to comply with the requirement for non-Malays to wear the songkok, WILL ACTUALLY PRESERVE THE INTEGRITY AND SANCTITY OF THE SONGKOK.

Despite all the denial about the Songkok being associated with Malay identity and hence with Islam (since all Malays are Muslims), the common perception even amongst Malay Muslims themselves, are that someone wearing a songkok IS a Muslim. IMAGINE a situation where a man wearing a songkok is having a beer, or a group of men are photographed in a pub, all wearing songkoks and each lifting a pint into the air!

What would Malays have to say about it then?
Would these be considered as an insult to Islam?

There are other situations where men in songkoks should not be
seen doing things which a Muslim should NOT be doing. For instance, would Muslims be upset if I were to wear a songkok and have my picture taken with a roast pig and the picture displayed?

What if my son wears a songkok and eats in a mamak shop during the month of Ramadan? Of if my son wears a songkok, and walks in the park at 7pm with his girlfriend, who is wearing a tudung (she also a non-Muslim!)

Would Muslim feel a sense of their culture being violated by
non-Muslims in Malay dress, doing things which good Muslims should not be doing? A non-Muslim boy walking sitting on a park bench at night with a non-Muslim girl would be nobody’s business but their own (or their parents). However, this would be a no-no for Muslims. Imagine the confusion if a non-Muslim boy with songkok were to be seen in this “khalwat” situation with a non-Muslim girl in a tudung?

Therefore, I reiterate - it is probably best to preserve the integrity and sanctity of the songkok and tudung, IF they are reserved for Malays and NOT enforced upon non-Malays. Alternatively, it should be left to the personal choice of the individual.

Do you think that my arguments have a basis?

I have no complaints if they make the songkok NON-COMPULSORY, and IF wearing it is just “encouraged” rather than. Would they have a problem if a small cross is pinned to the songkok, to designate that the wearer is not a Muslim?

Since I'm 1 of the prefect in Maktab Sultan Abu Bakar(English College), 1 of the ExCo & also a student that has study in EC for 7 years (currently in upper 6), let me explain the story behind this songkok thing. As far as I know, the wearing of the green songkok has existed for a very long time (around 20 or 30 years) & it didn't pop up just recently as some people assumed. It is clearly stated in the constitution of the EC's Prefectorial Board as 1 of the accessories that needed to be wear on by male prefrect in school. As for everyone knowledge, our songkok is not those normal songkok but songkok which is similar to those songkok that MP & minister don on. The difference is the colour is not black but green.

The wearing of songkok among prefect still exist when I 1st get into form 1 but then it disappear suddenly in my form 4 year due to relaxation in enforcement of this rule. During the past & those who are same batch as me, to us, prefect wearing songkok is a tradition & not a big deal to us but when this rule is bring it up again, a lot of complaints & objections are heard due to lack of knowledge towards the history of prefectorial board especially among non-Malay juniors.

To me, wearing the songkok is not a religious matter or a race matter. I didn't turn me into a Malay nor did I become Muslim. I still a Chinese Buddhist & will remain Chinese Buddhist forever. Wearing songkok makes me feel that i'm Malaysian, a truly Malaysian. By the way, we are not force to wear it but for unifomity we choose to wear it. Those who are not comfortable with it can choose not to wear it. No one forces the person to do things they don't want to do.

The current situation is due to miscommunication between the school authorithy & the prefects. A meeting will be held soon & I hope everyone don't turn this issue into a racial or religious issue.


ec prefect said...

see,the tudung is not part of a so to say,MALAY culture.for female muslims,they have to cover their whole body except their hands and feet.but as u can see not many people practice that nowadays.ok lets put that aside.besides that,although the parent of the prefect's points about the songkok,may not be somewhat arguable,the songkok is a national headdress worn by males on formal occasions such as wedding ceremonies or religious holidays.but it can also be worn by anyone at anytime as u can see some of our prefects do wear the songkok
wherever they go.even the military and police wear the songkok during formal occasions.another thing,if u are truly devoted to your religion,nothing can make u change.even if there's a tyrant threatening all christians in the world,if u are truly christian,u will remain a since her son is a devoted christian,why is this a problem?is she afraid that her son's faith will falter?but honestly,since it is making such a ruckus among us,i think that if this rule was only subjected to malays it would be better.but i am truly dissapointed in these people,to go to such an extent to protest against this.even one of our teachers,a very respected teacher i might add,said that it IS NOT COMPULSORY.but why didnt this issue pop up decades ago? why NOW?modernisation has made us weak.even the government is weak.but nonetheless,we are all living in i ask of all of you who reads this,be grateful of what you're not forced to wear a songkok.i understand if they start to ask you to wear sarong's or read the quran or even trying to convert u into muslims.even i will protest to that because in islam,practitioners of other religions have the right to do so.but by wearing a songkok,will it damage your faith? so dislike being mistaken as a malay? as a muslim? so if a malay is mistaken for other races/religion,its okay? so what if we're mistaken for things we're not? will it cause us any damage or disadvantage? even if it does,we can just clear things up by telling them that we're not what they thought we were.its not like "EH THATS A (INSERT RACE HERE) SHOOT!" we're not in a wartorn.if this is what modernisation has cost us,i wish we were back in the old days.i truly am dissapointed to think that one of my friends,whoever he is,is causing all this.if i offended anyone in this comment,im sorry.

ec prefect said...

*wartorn country

- weixun said...

It's not just now that this is an issue, it was also an issue in the past.

My elder brother was in the prefectoral board during his time in English College. When he was in the lower forms, the songkok rule was compulsary and it was an issue.

Besides, even if it is not compulsary now, what's to stop it from being made compulsary in the future? If it was done in the past, what's to stop it from being done in the future? And let's be frank here, the word "encouraged" is just a politically correct term of "we want you to do it".

No, wearing the songkok will not make a person's faith in his god falter, but I believe that the principle behind it is wrong. The songkok is a part of the Malay culture and the Malay culture only.

Let me give you another example. I went to National Service last year, and was shocked when we, the non-muslims, were asked to raise our hands just like the muslims do when it was prayer time in public assemblies. This was done for the sake of "unity". My faith was not hurt, but I felt wronged because I was being forced, no, "encouraged" to do something that never has been, and never will be a common practice of my race and religion.

The principle matter is this: should a person be forced, or as you say, "encouraged" to embrace another culture, especially if he doesn't want to?

I believe not. We're in Malaysia, where our differences in culture are not only tolerated, but celebrated!

God knows that I love Malaysia, and I love English College, but if this kind of a thing continues, then surely, my love for my country and my school will falter.

overdresser said...

Death to all prefects. Line em up and shoot em point blanc. Hail equality.

ayieq. said...

honestly, am quite disappointing on whats happening bout this issue.

poor u guys, that this issues have been manipulated.

i was one of the prefects back then and boy im shock when i got to know bout tis mattrs.

saddening, our tradition; being tarnishd just because of political purposes.