Programming Interest Group Talk

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Past, Present and Future of IIUM.

This is an assignment for my leadership and management course last semester. 

Years ago, when I was stil in secondary school, the name UIA (Universiti Islam Antarabangsa), which is what IIUM is called back then, has a special feel of its own. As you would expect, ‘International Islamic University’ brings great impression on the university. Other university have the impression of having a lot of student or making beneficial research or becoming the best of what Malaysia has to offer. IIUM on the other hand, would hold the hope of Muslim everywhere around the world. After all, at that time, IIUM was one of a kind with a very general name of IIU. We would all expect every IIUM student to be able to speak Arabic and teaches religion. I myself once said that I’ll never enter UIA because I have to learn Arabic. Being a student from a normal secondary school, not even a religious school, IIUM is not the first university to come up to my mind. I would even joke about entering IIUM. And yet here I am, preparing an assignment for my leadership class.

Before I came here in main campus Gombak, I went the usual Malaysian student route to a degree, matriculation or foundation. IIUM has its own foundation located in Petaling Jaya. It was in fact, the old IIUM main campus, which itself was the old Islamic Faculty of University Malaya. On the online public university registration system, I pick UIAM as one of the university. I pick it as first choice randomly, not knowing what I’ll find. Eventually the result of my application is a foundation program in IIUM. I also get an offer from Selangor Matriculation Center, but by the usual convention of picking foundation over matriculation, I opt for the former. My first impression was mixed. Most of the students are not as religious as I thought. They came from schools all over Malaysia. Most of them came from boarding school and some came from famous schools like KISAS or Victoria Institution or MARA full boarding school. Only some student came from normal school like me. Some even schooled outside Malaysia, in Egypt for example. Bare in mind, this is foundation center, almost all student are Malaysian. All student does look similar and usually does not show much different. It does have its own uniqueness. Out of the usual appearances of the student, it is not very rare to find a Hafiz. One of my roommate is a Hafiz. Who knows if the person next to you is a Hafiz? And if he is, it is nothing unusual, unlike back at my old school. Another strange thing I notice is that, most of the student are not exactly performing student. Sure, I have a friend who is the head prefect of Victoria Institution which by my secondary school standard, that is very impressive. I know one of my roommate is an Assistant Head Prefect. Who knows what others are hiding? But academically, I have to admit, I expected more. I was among the top student at my school, but it is a normal secondary school. Which cause me to think, ‘Why do they left normal secondary school to a boarding school if your academic will end up normal just like this?’. Back at my school people keep saying its not easy to enter IIUM, you will need really good grade. In reality however, that is not really the case. Most of the student here are just above average, if you compare to most secondary school student, but not really creme de la crop. I keep asking , ‘what am I doing here?’ being not so religious , on a religious university where most of the student is not as religious as I thought, academically excel except on religious subject in a university where I thought everyone would be some kind of a genius. I could probably have more competition and yet perform better on University Malaya for example, where I don’t have to take religious subject. Eventually I start to think, ‘lets just get through with this’. Think of IIUM, like UITM with less people and more religious subject.

One and a half year later, I enroll at IIUM Main Campus Gombak. I was an ICT student so there is no such thing as ‘will you get the course?’ issue because requirement for Bachelor of Information Technology is quite low. Effectively all foundation ICT student manage to enroll in BIT. Some foundation engineering student however, will have to take BIT because of their low grade. Gombak Campus has an entirely different environment. Student are able to get in and out of campus freely unlike in CFS. The area of the campus is huge compared CFS campus, yet smaller that most university in Malaysia. It takes me half hour to walk from my mahallah to Kuliah of ICT. Gombak Campus is quite compact. There is not much space for more development. The climate is cold and it location is close to the jungle. The place is beautiful. Some mahallah even look like a resort. It can be characterized by one large circle of one way road surrounding a central complex of buildings where most kuliah is located. I said most because kuliah of ICT is not in the circle. In the middle of the complex is a mosque. The architecture is also a bit different then other university. It feels… less like a public university, and more of… a garden actually.

One really big different between CFS and main campus is the international student. Almost 30% of the student are international student. I personally thought the percentage would be more than that. Later on, I learn from another student that there were more international student back when the university was founded. But it has decreased. I guess Malaysia is a good country for foreign student because we already have many foreign worker so its not really a strange situation to see other nationalities. Except for African student. The dark skinned one, even darker than indian. These are very rare in Malaysia, but not in IIUM. Unfortunately international and local student does not mingle much with each other. Much like Chinese and Malay in Malaysia. A bit separated but not particularly hostile with each other. I’m not exactly sure why. I’m guessing its a Malay thing. Another thing I realize is that students can’t speak Arabic. Which is not really what I expect in the first place. It seems that IIUM used to have an Arabic requirement of level 4. But now it has been reduced to level 2. It seems that Arabic is not particularly considered important, which is a shame, considering this is an Islamic university. For example, I am currently writing in english. I guess the administration think It is best to use a language most student are able to comprehend. No, the situation is also the same among international student. Most of them can’t speak Arabic too (or can they?), although the percentage are probably higher than local student. Fortunately the friday sermon is usually conducted in Arabic and English. And this Arabic is not the scripted one we usually found in normal Malaysian mosque. The khatib really speak and speak in Arabic. If you want to know how is a friday sermon conducted in real arabic, come to IIIUM. The university also has some required courses which is tailored towards Islamization. For example, tilawah Al-Quran and Islamic World view. But these subject is not really hard or have high credit. But it is still more than what you find in other university.

Another thing I realize is the solidarity of the student. IIUM has always been known to be a politically resisting university. What I do not know is how much exactly, and what kind of things happen. Before I went to Gombak main campus, I knew one event from my friend. My friend went to Gombak campus because he was one of the committee for a sport carnival. He said, ‘heavy traffic jam. The student are holding a demonstration.’ . I’m not sure exactly why, but if I’m not mistaken, it is due to some fault in the student representative counsel election. So last year, the election actually happen twice. Once with electronic machine, and the second one with manual paper vote. So that is interesting. The newspaper however, published only 20 student in the demonstration. But based on what my friend told me, I’m very sure there were more than 20 student. The central government has a tendency to involve in administration of IIUM especially when the 13th General Election is hold early this year. One interesting fact, both the opposition leader, Anwar Ibrahim and government leader, Najib Razak, were president of IIUM. So we can say that GE 13 is the battle of two IIUM President. Some notable figures which is not directly in politic, but has been known to be on the opposite side of the government, like Ustaz Ahmad Idris is basically banned to from entering IIUM. Even the previous deputy rector of student affair who is known to be biased against the government cannot enter IIUM. Several talks were canceled after being approved, for example ‘GE13, What is Our Hope’ which was originally intended to be held in IIUM, but later on the venue had been changed to public hall outside IIIUM. And recently with this year SRC election, the deputy rector of student affair made a very suspicious method of election for the SRC president which resulting in a widespread bitterness throughout the university. So this university is not really independent and not really of a say…. university. In conclusion, the International Islamic University Malaysia is less than 30% international, not as Islamic as I thought and is not as a university as a university should be. But it is in Malaysia.

The topic for this assignment is past, present and future of IIUM. I’ve briefly talk about the past, and the about present. So now I’ll have to talk about the future of IIUM. In my first semester, I’ve attended a talk entitled ‘talk with admin’. There, the administration has presented several plans they made. For example, the new CFS center, a solar farm near KICT, a multilevel car park, a centralized cooling system, a cultural village near the lake and an automotive museum. Sounds awesome? It is, but is the plan just for presentations? With various government budget cut after GE 13, and the failure of IIUM to reach a status of research university this year, I’m feeling skeptic. What I can say is about the solar farm. Which If I’m not mistaken, the budget for the first phase has been passed. And If you go to KICT, you will see that behind the new expensive mahallah, there is an empty land, where the solar panel suppose to be. But it should already be there by 2013, and now its December 2013. What about the solar panel at the car park in ECONS? Again, I’m very skeptic. The new CFS Center in Gambang on the other hand, had recently been partially open. It should be fully operational by 2015, but it seems that it is ahead of schedule. The rest of the plans seems to be hopes and dreams, looking at the current geographical limitation and the situation of the lake which is more of a field right now.

Recently, again if I’m not mistaken, the rector said that we will be gradually increase the number of international student up to the limit allowed by the government. Which is 30%. Which means that the number of international student is actually less than that. I personally would recommend they set the quota to at least 50%. Not to mention IIUM is technically a company instead of a public university. So we should not be entitled for that quota too. However, I was hoping for more changes in the environment. I wish there were more program to empower the student to be more open minded and not being restricted thinking ‘will the admin approve it?’. Also, I hope that one day when I graduated, I can speak Arabic. Sure, its not what I’m good at, but how can I say I graduated from an International and Islamic university if I can’t even speak Arabic? I hope the administration will reconsider the minimum Arabic requirement. It might even also solve the integration problem between the local student and international student. Overall with the trend from what I know previously, the future of IIUM seems to be more restrictively international, less Islamic and more performance. However budget cuts could mean some plans will have to be cancelled. The future does not holds very good for IIUM. Especially considering that IIUM can be considered as a ‘fortress’ for political student. The future fate of IIUM may be similar to the Insaniah University in Kedah.