Monday, October 02, 2006

Revise History Books Urges Kassim Ahmad. Should We?

Kassim Ahmad, who taught Malay studies at the University of London in the 1960s, said it was high time the mistakes made in the history books were corrected so that the historical texts were not riddled “with lies, prejudice and twisted facts”.

“We need to document the truth,” said Kassim, who was also a researcher with Dewan Bahasa dan Pustaka in the early 1960s. He added that the Education Ministry and the Higher Education Ministry should carry out large-scale studies to unveil historical facts that had been erased and amend errors made in history textbooks.

**** He was apparently referring to several claims regarding the actual founder of Penang. "Questions about which Malay leader first initiated settlement in Penang is immaterial as long as an amendment is made in the history books that Sir Francis Light was not the founder of the island," he said.

I agree with Kassim Ahmad. But I also hasten to add that history must reflect if at all possible, the truth, however unpalatable it may be. We shouldn't seek to replace historical accounts that have a perceived Western bias with one that has a manufactured Malay tilt. I dread to think what would happen if rewriting and 'correcting' history were left to fanatics in the Dewan Bahasa Dan Pustaka.

Unbiased documenting of historical and current facts and events for posterity is very serious business and a great responsibility that cannot be left in the hands of zealots and xenophobes. Malaysians must learn from the great disgust which Japan evoked when it played down its role in World War 2 and fudged the history books used in their schools. Despite it being a big economic power, Japanese accounts of part of their own history have no credibility at all and western versions are the preferred reference texts. Let that not happen here if it hasn't already.

As it is our own textbooks are being increasingly seen as creating a history for the Malays that belies reality especially in reference to the pre-Islamic period and the glossing over and near total denial of their own unique heritage and culture as well as the attempt by certain quarters to somehow 'merge' Malay and Arab and to make them almost synonymous.

So be very very careful regarding calls to change this or that historical data based on nebulous findings and wishful thinking.

Related post: Is 'Official' Malaysian History Fabricated?

8 Comments:

Blogger toniXe said...

I suppose no new/additional measure(s) of distortions/illusions and coverups/downs will enhance Malay History than it already has been.

4:04 PM GMT+8  
Blogger The Malaysian. said...

Not a very 'generous' conclusion tonixe. In fact the possibilities are endless.

5:18 PM GMT+8  
Blogger walski69 said...

History, it's been said, is written by the victors.

The "founding" of any place is very subjective, and from the British point of view, establishing a 'civilized' base somewhere that already had 'primitive' settlements would be considered 'founding' said place.

Written history, IMHO, is about the perspective of the history writers, and in fact, many different facts pertaining to the actual "founding" of Penang should be recorded as history, not the omission of one viewpoint, in favor of another.

It's probably true that Sir Francis Light wasn't the Neil Armstrong of Penang, setting foot onto a hence human-uncharted island. Having said that, from the British perspective, he did establish a colonial trading base.

His contributions to the island's history should never be forgotten, as it is a very valid part of our nation's history. To simply write him off, so to speak, would be doing ourselves a great injustice.

I'm personally in favor of a more perspective-driven view of history, providing history from all possible angles, based on valid studies, and not just promoting a singular viewpoint.

History, in any case, is rarely a singular viewpoint.

6:35 PM GMT+8  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

While we are at it,we must also send a protest note across the causeway.It is preposterus to attribute the founding of Temasek to Raffles.

7:34 PM GMT+8  
Blogger The Malaysian. said...

Thanks walski for those enlightening comments. Always a pleasure to hear from you.
anonymous, you're dead right about Temasek.

8:15 PM GMT+8  
Blogger NextPM said...

To make the malays looked better in the eyes of the world for the sake of writting.

10:37 AM GMT+8  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Over the years there has been many attempts by local "historians" and "academics" to change Malayan history to ones that glorifies local "heros".While there is nothing inherently wrong with that, if it can be proven with proper research and similarly substantiated.But it seems most of these attempts are just to change history to achieve nationalistic egoism.

12:03 AM GMT+8  
Anonymous walkgdic said...

Another of the local authorities' favourite doings are to change long established road names.These names has been around for a long time, easily recognized by the locals, and there are basically local history.To change them is either to change or deny history.Why can they name new roads with these names, rather than change existing ones.

12:13 AM GMT+8  

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