Former Prime Minister Dr Mahathir Mohamad has used the example of the Chinese community using chopsticks instead of hands to highlight the challenges the country faced in forming a unified identity.
Speaking at the launch of his new memoir, titled “Capturing Hope: The Struggle Continues for A New Malaysia” on Sunday (12 December), he said Malaysians tend to link their races to the countries they came from.
“They are not like their great grandfathers who actually were born in China and came here. They are born here, brought up here, grew up here, but they still link to (their ancestral roots). So this divides the people.” he said during the launch.
Mahathir also lamented that people in the country for identify themselves as ‘Chinese Malaysian’ and ‘Indian Malaysian’, saying, “Because of that strong sense of racial identity, they cannot be assimilated.”
Meanwhile, he said people in multiracial countries should forsake the identity of their origin country once they adopt citizenship of the country they live in.
He then cited the example of former US president Dwight David Eisenhower, who was of German origin but led the US to fight against Germany in World War II.
Apart from the chopsticks, Mahathir also pointed how Malaysian Chinese are naming their children just like the Chinese nationals with a lot of ‘X’, ‘Z’, and all that.
“But we are Malaysians. We have our own Chinese. The tendency is always to identify with the country of origin.”
The host of the event then asked whether Malaysia should follow Indonesia’s controversial footsteps to force Indonesian Chinese into assimilation, where Mahathir contended that the Indonesian Chinese had to assimilate into the local community because there are only 10% of them, unlike Malaysia where it has 30% Chinese and 10% Indians.
“The Malaysian Chinese and Indians had preserve their own community, their own customs, and their own way of living.”
“For example, the Chinese eat with chopsticks. We eat with our hands. They have not adopted the Malaysian way of eating food.”
“They retain the chopsticks, which is an identity of China, not Malaysia.” he said.
Previously, he also mentioned that some Indians and Arabs in the country are willing to become Malays by sacrificing their own ethnic identities to adopt the Malay language, customs, and names even though they are not Malays.
“But others do not want to identify themselves as Malays. That is the problem.” Mahathir said.
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