Malaysia to review textbook depicting Indian caste system


Kuala Lumpur: A textbook for school students that talks about caste system among the ethnic Indians is being reviewed following concerns expressed by the community, a senior Malaysian official has said.

Support TwoCircles

Education director-general Abdul Ghafar Mahmud’s statement came Friday after Deputy Education Minister Wee Ka Siong said his ministry’s review panel was open to changes and discussions.

The panel would deliberate on the suggestions made by the Malaysian Indian Congress (MIC), the country’s oldest Indian-based political party.

“From what I know, they (MIC) want us to make certain changes in sections which describe the caste system and we will have to wait for the review panel’s decision,” he was quoted a saying by the daily Star Saturday.

MIC vice president S. Subramaniam, who is also the country’s human resource minister, earlier this week said the references to caste system did not reflect the condition in the 2.1 million Indian community and, if studied by students, would give “a misleading impression”.

Titled “Interlok”, the book, written by Abdullah Hussein, is about Malay literature and highlights the daily struggles of individuals from three major races in the country before Independence.

The book’s contents have been defended by some writers who say that they should be read in their totality.

Persatuan Penulis Nasional Malaysia (Pena) president Saleeh Rahamad said the claim that the book would paint an inaccurate picture of the Indian community in Malaysia was “not acceptable”.

“One must read the entire text to get the message, which is about realising that unity and cooperation among the races are vital,” he said.

Malaysia National Translation Institute chief executive officer Khair Ngadiron said one should not look at any part of the book in isolation or take an issue out of context to justify such a request.

“Interlok discusses various racial issues with the ultimate intention of uniting the nation,” Ngardiron said.