Tuesday, January 18, 2011

School principal defends ‘pariah’ remark, apologises to Indian students

KUALA LUMPUR, Jan 17 — A Muslim school principal apologised to some 200 Indian students this afternoon, hours after word spread that she had allegedly called the Indian community “pariahs” during the morning's school assembly.

A senior teacher with SMK Taman Tasik Ampang confirmed that headmistress Zaini Mohd Zin made the apology to the students in the school library at 12.30pm.

“She apologised and shook their hands,” he told The Malaysian Insider, adding the students responded positively to her apology.

But one student questioned her intentions in using the term, the teacher said, disclosing that Zaini then gave a private explanation to the student who then accepted the apology.

Zaini earlier told The Malaysian Insider that while she admitted to using the word once during her speech, she had merely been quoting from the controversial “Interlok” novel.

“I was explaining to the students about the importance of excelling in the history subject and it was then that I referred to the ‘Interlok’ novel.

“I quoted from the novel, mentioning that the reason why the Indians were unhappy with the book was because of the word. I do not even dare to repeat the word now,” she said when contacted.

Zaini added that in her speech she had also said the Indian community from the lower castes in India had migrated to Malaysia in the past and were contented here as they were better recognised.

“I said many left India because of the caste system and they are happy here because Malaysia does not practice that. We are all equal,” she said.

But her words, Zaini lamented, had been taken out of context to mean that she was insulting the community by calling them “pariahs” and low class.

She admitted that she had treaded on dangerous ground when she touched on the “Interlok” row and expressed regret that the incident had annoyed the Indian community.

“I am getting cold feet now. I truly did not mean to insult anyone with my statement. It would have been extremely stupid of me to mention the word with the intention to hurt anyone.

“Now, I do not even dare to repeat the word... even to you,” she said.

Zaini said she was willing to apologise over the incident and revealed that she would clarify the matter during school assembly next Monday.

“I am also writing a letter now to the Selangor and federal education departments,” she said.

Word of the incident spread like wildfire this morning as SMSes began circulating that Zaini had insulted the Indian community by accusing them of being in the lower caste and calling them “pariahs”.

The senior teacher vouched for his superior and came to her immediate defence when asked if she had uttered the derogatory term.

“I am from the Indian community myself and here, I have worked with over seven or eight bosses before.

“I am not trying to back her because she is my boss but I truly believe that I have never worked with a superior more open-minded and moderate than Zaini,” he said.

He added that Zaini even allowed her Hindu students to take special religious classes during school hours and never objected when he invited religious leaders to give speeches.

“Even a Buddhist monk has entered our school to give talks. I am convinced that she had made those statements without any malice.

“Zaini is not a racist. She is even willing to retract what she said and apologise although her words were taken out of context,” he said.

The senior teacher claimed the incident was being blown out of proportion as certain parties were attempting to use it to their benefit in the ongoing row over the “Interlok” novel.

“People are just trying to turn it into an issue for their own personal reason. But this is wrong,” he said. - The Malaysian Insider