Friday, 24 April 2015

ASAS '50 and Jawi Text

ASAS '50 stems from Angkatan Sastrawan '50.

ASAS '50 was a literary and cultural organisation that looked after the Malay community-based literary works and culture, including Malay movies. It was started in 1950 by a group of writers, journalists, and students. One of the writers was Muhammad Ariff Ahmad. A few of the early students of ASAS '50 were medical students at the King Edward VII College of Medicine in Singapore. They included (Dr) Ungku Omar bin Ungku Ahmad, and (Dr) Abbas bin Haji Alias. Malay movies made in Singapore and directed by a Malay Rawa Penangite, P Ramlee, also abide by ASAS '50 guidelines. 

It was during ASAS '50 that Malay Jawi writing (tulisan Jawi) adopted the Romanised form (tulisan Rumi). In 1972-73 while living at one of the government quarters of Maktab Perguruan Perempuan Melayu (MPPM) in Durian Daun in Malacca, I remember trying to read a Jawi version of Utusan Malaysia to my paternal grandmother. She only attended Standard One and could not read and write the Romanised Malay form. I had never seen her held a pen or pencil. She could read Malay Jawi text by herself in the adjoining back house which was the servant's quarters. I read the Jawi newspaper aloud and she asked questions and pointed to me where to read. I can't recall what I read.

When my father died in early March 2009, he left behind plenty of little pieces of paper in the drawers of his desk at home in Minden Heights, Penang. They were actually not scrap paper for discarding. They were actually his daily jottings in Malay Jawi, as if they were pages torn out of his imaginary diary, It feels strange to find that a Malay man educated in England would keep records of his activities on scrap paper - but that was my father. Unlike Romanised Malay, Malay Jawi writing can be compressed and needs very little space for writing something. There are no vowels available for use in Malay Jawi writing. An experienced reader of Malay Jawi text can read well without vowels and diacritical marks. It is a wonder to be able to read and write Malay Jawi text.

Today, the Malay Jawi writing form is unpopular among the Malay community, but Malay newspapers are trying to make a comeback. Whether the Malay Jawi form will prevail and remain for long is a wonder. 

Children who study at the Malay religious schools can read the Malay Jawi text. Those who attend national schools mat have some difficulty trying to read the Malay Jawi text. Malay clergy and those who work at the Islamic institutions can read Malay Jawi text.

Malay movies made in Malaysia today go through FINAS for approval. FINAS is a national body and stems from Filem Nasional. It vets the appropriateness of Malay movies for broadcast on TV and in cinemas.

Apart from FINAS, there is another body for censorship purpose altogether that vets Malay movies for compliance according to Islamic standards or rulings. Such things are new. Script writers attend sessions to learn how to write syariah compliant scripts for TV and movie productions.

Cartoons are also subject to such rigorous screening and censorship. So far, TV AlHijrah has aired some of these programmes, such as Zone Aulad and a cartoon series featuring a little nurse. In the little nurse story, the nurse wears a headscarf just as any Muslimah (Muslim girl) wears hers.

External links:

More details of ASAS '50 can be found at Wikipedia:

A brief biography of Singaporean Muhammad Ariff Ahmad can be found at the Singapore Literary Pioneers web page: