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Malaysia textbook sparks anger among ethnic Indians

KUALA LUMPUR--Malaysia's largest Indian party has called for a textbook to be withdrawn from the curriculum over a reference to the caste system, a report said Monday, in a case highlighting the country's strained race relations.

The Malay-language book “Interlok,” is from this year to become compulsory reading for high school students, but the Malaysian Indian Congress (MIC) said it contained a chapter which was offensive to the ethnic group.

Written by a national laureate, the book covers the history of integration of Malaysia's three main races — Malays, Chinese and Indians — from the 1900s until independence in 1957.

The Malaysian Indian Congress (MIC) protested against a chapter linking the community to the caste system, which it said is outdated, and want the government to withdraw the book or remove the passages touching on the system.

“This issue does not affect us anymore and we do not want to be reminded of such things,” MIC president G. Palanivel said, according to The Star newspaper Monday.

“We are holding strong to our stance that the sensitive portion touching on the Indian community should be removed from the book,” he said.

The Education Ministry said it will hear complaints from Indian leaders before making a decision on the fate of the book.

“We have not received the (complaint) letter. We will get the professional views on this matter,” Deputy Education Minister Wee Ka Siong told AFP.

“Our intention is to make our people united and live harmoniously,” he said.

The caste system divided Hindus into four main groups according to their work and social status. It has been widely criticized as a form of discrimination and is outlawed in India.

Ethnic Indians make up less than 10 percent of Malaysia's 28 million population and have long complained that they are disadvantaged by policies helping majority Muslim Malays.

January 4, 2011    vaisanavadas@
MIC should look into other problems more pressing to the Indian community. This caste issue cannot be resolved as it is still practiced in India and Malaysia. What had been written is historical than fiction. It depends on the students as to how they want to see the form. Samy Velloo ruled by caste system and Palenivel has to rule according to Najib's 1 Malysia concept which means no caste system. Everyone is respected for their ability including the rubbish collector.
January 5, 2011    elumpen@
Mr Palanivel, it's a history book. History is full of a lot of things that people hate being reminded about (just ask the Japanese). Perhaps what touched a raw nerve is that the caste system is still very much alive in India; I find it hard to believe it doesn't exist in Malaysia too. History is taught so that we can take a good hard look at ourselves and make sure we do better in future. Or perhaps you didn't pay attention much in school?
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