|South China Morning Post, Hong Kong
Tuesday, July 6, 1999
Mahathir takes aim at
IAN STEWART in Kuala Lumpur
Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad has provided more ammunition for
his critics among the nation's religious leaders by condemning Malay
students for spending too much time studying religion.
He also said their achievements were below those of non-Malays.
At the same time, he announced federal government plans to take
over state-run religious schools to improve the academic
achievements of their students.
This move is aimed mainly at religious schools in
opposition-controlled Kelantan, where "children are taught to hate"
the federal Government and the Prime Minister, according to Dr
The state's Parti Islam se-Malaysia Government said it would resist
Conservative religious leaders who oppose Dr Mahathir's moderate
approach to Islam are likely to have been similarly displeased by his
remarks about Malay students whom, he said, failed their
examinations because they were more interested in "religion,
protests and politics" than seeking professional knowledge.
Many Malay students joined demonstrations supporting the jailed
former deputy prime minister, Anwar Ibrahim, earlier this year.
"We see non-Malay students achieving success because they
actually learnt, while the only learning the Malay students did was
to tell the Government how to run the country," he said, replying to
questions after opening a meeting of the Malay Chamber of
Commerce and Industry.
He said Malay students preferred Malay and religious studies,
neglecting the professional courses.
"I am not anti-religion but not everyone needs to study religion in
such depth," he said. "And when these students cannot find
employment later, they join the opposition and start criticising the