3:17pm 15/12/2021
After Mahathir’s attack on chopsticks, what’s next? Banana leaf?

By Mariam Mokhtar

Former prime minister Dr Mahathir Mohamad unleashed a disgraceful diatribe against the Chinese, and claimed that they had failed to assimilate because they wanted to preserve their own community, customs and ways.

Referring to the use of chopsticks by the Chinese in Malaysia, he said, “The Chinese eat with chopsticks; they don’t eat with their hands. They have not adopted the Malaysian way of eating food. They retained the chopstick which is an identity with China, not with Malaysia, and many other things.”

Dr Mahathir is scraping the bottom of the barrel with his latest attack on the Chinese.

What’s next on his agenda? Banana leaf?

Since when was eating with hands the Malaysian way of eating food? Malaysia is a melting pot of many cultures, but eating with hands in Malaysia is synonymous with the Malays and Indians.

So, what prompted Dr Mahathir’s latest launch against the Chinese? Is he preparing early for GE15 and pitting Malays against non-Malays?

It was Dr Mahathir’s divisive policies and his affirmative action plan, which destroyed race relations in Malaysia.

Under him, the Bureau Tata Negara (BTN), a propaganda tool, was used to brainwash impressionable and innocent young minds into adhering to his Ketuanan Melayu policy.

The society was divided into Malays and non-Malays. Why blame the chopsticks?

Here are some pertinent questions for Dr Mahathir.

If Chinese Malaysians stopped using chopsticks to eat their food, would they be given equal status as Malaysians in Malaysia?

Would the Chinese have greater access to scholarships and a place at public universities including Universiti Teknologi Mara (UiTM)?

Would Chinese children be accorded places in Mara boarding schools?

Would the New Economic Policy (NEP) be disbanded?

Does it mean the Chinese are no longer required to hand over 51% equity in their companies to Malay businessmen?

If the Chinese willingly gave up their chopsticks, would a non-Malay be made Vice Chancellor of a public university, or the CEO or chairman of a GLC?

Would he be made the head of the armed forces?

Could the most qualified and principled Chinese become prime minister?

Would Chinese who refused to eat with chopsticks be allowed to set up a law firm and practice syariah law, especially if he had read syariah law at university?

If the Chinese volunteered to forego eating with chopsticks and opted to eat with their hands instead, would Dr Mahathir ensure they would not be called “pendatang” anymore?

Conversely, are Malays who work in an office environment and are required to wear suits failing to assimilate because they are trying to be western? Why not require them to wear Baju Melayu instead?

Why has Dr Mahathir picked on the use of chopsticks by the Chinese when in reality, it is the quota system, the racist agenda, the NEP and the Ketuanan Melayu policies that have discouraged assimilation?

The majority of Malays refuse to visit a Chinese household during festive days like Chinese New Year because many dread the presence of dogs, but more importantly, they have been indoctrinated by ignorant ulamas that they cannot eat or drink from the crockery and glasses of non-Muslims.

The Chinese family will accommodate their Malay/Muslim friends with paper plates or disposable cups and cutlery, but to no avail.

Many Malays refuse to attend Chinese weddings because they are “fearful” of being served haram food, despite their Chinese hosts making special arrangements to order food and separate crockery and cutlery from a halal caterer for their Malay/Muslim guests. Many Malay guests do not turn up, despite saying they will attend.

If Dr Mahathir wants to see a fine example of assimilation, all he has to do is visit Sarawak.

They promote unity through racial diversity. Family members intermarry people of different faiths and cultures. On festival days, the same family sits at the dining table and can be seen eating with chopsticks, their hands, or with fork and spoon. This would be a very rare sight in Semenanjung Malaysia.

Dr Mahathir’s greed for power resulted in the controversial Project IC of the 1990s.

In this politically motivated move, many Filipinos became Malaysians overnight. Illegal migrants were given Malaysian identity cards provided they voted for the ruling party. Citizenship was exchanged for votes.

Project M (M for Mahathir), as it is also called, destroyed the racial and religious harmony and demography of Sabah. Is this what Dr Mahathir means by assimilation?

Today’s Malay is a confused being. Some have abandoned their Malay culture and adopted Arab dresses, mannerisms and speech.

Why does Dr Mahathir not censure the Malays about their failure to assimilate a Malaysian identity?

Dr Mahathir said many Indians and Arabs “became Malays” by sacrificing their own ethnic identities to adopt the Malay language, customs and names.

He said, “They were accepted by the Malays as Malays, even though it’s obvious they are not Malays.”

Doesn’t he know that the Indians and Arabs need not sacrifice their own ethnic identities?

It is alleged that many Indians rejected their own culture and became pseudo Malays because of the privileges that come with becoming a Malay/Muslim.

The former Indian, on becoming Malay, or rather a pseudo Malay, will find a whole new world of opportunities that were previously unavailable to him as a non-Malay. These incentives may be government aid for the small trader, scholarships and housing allocations.

One has only to think of the former husband of the teacher, Indira Ghandi, whose former husband denounced his own Hindu religion and Indian ethnicity to become a Muslim.

Eleven years after kidnapping his youngest child from her mother (Indira), the police claimed that he could not be traced and brought to justice.

The police were prepared to ignore a court order instructing them to find the convert husband.

This sort of “assimilation” brought more division in the society and unhappiness to this particular family.

So, what is Dr Mahathir’s definition of assimilation?

As a former PM, he is not promoting unity and has failed to show leadership by example.


1. Malaysiakini: Dr M uses chopstick example to lament challenges in assimilating non-Malays

(Mariam Mokhtar is a Freelance Writer.)


Mariam Mokhtar


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