Firstly, it shows that the Cabinet is responsive to public opinion. I hope that this marks a greater government commitment that it would be responsive to the sensitivities of a plural society, which is a defining characteristic of Malaysia as a confluence of various races, languages, cultures, religions and civilisations.
In fact, this is why one of the top selling-points of the Prime Minister, Datuk Seri Dr. Mahathir Mohamad when promoting the Multimedia Super Corridor internationally as Malaysia’s "gift" to the world is Malaysia’s unique position as the confluence of several great Asian civilisations, religions, races, languages and cultures, and adverse international publicity about the lack of sensitivity to the different cultures, religions and civilisations could only undermine the Prime Minister’s promotion of the MSC in the world stage.
Secondly, that no one culture, religion or civilisation should be forced or imposed on any Malaysian citizen in plural Malaysia in keeping with the clear-cut nation-building policy of integration rather than assimilation.
Thirdly, a new culture of public consultation and involvement before the government announces any new policy measures or directions.
The controversy over Islamic civilisation being made a compulsory subject for institutions of higher learning would not have taken place, for instance, if there had been public consultation and involvement before any announcement is made.
While It is a good idea not only to expose non-Muslim students to Islamic civilisation but also to expose Muslim students to non-Muslim civilisations, there is no public discussion or consultation as how best to expose the best of all the human civilisations to young Malaysians - whether this should be done at the university level, or whether this process should have started earlier in the national education system, whether in the primary or secondary levels.
I would urge the Education Ministry therefore to convene a National Education Conference on Asian Civilisations involving educationists from all the different language streams, scholars and religious leaders from the different faiths in the country to discuss how best to impart the best values of the great civilisations which meet in Malaysia to our students in schools and universities.
The deliberations of this National Education Conference on Asian Civilisations can then form the basis not only for the Committee of Vice Chancellors and Rectors of Public Universities to finalise the details on the subject of Islamic and Asian Civilisations, but even for planners in the Education Ministry to introduce in the primary and secondary school curricula elements of the best from the great civilisations.