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Dr M Says Chinese Using Chopsticks To Eat Is A Reason Why There's No Malaysian Identity

Former prime minister Tun Dr Mahathir said the strong sense of racial identity is why some Malaysians "cannot be assimilated".

Cover image via Budiey Channel (YouTube) & Cook's Illustrated

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Former prime minister Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad said Malaysian Chinese using chopsticks to eat instead of hands show the challenges that the country faces to form a unified identity

Speaking at the launch of his new memoir — titled Capturing Hope: The Struggle Continues for A New Malaysia — yesterday, 12 December, Mahathir 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," said the 96-year-old during the launch, as recorded by Budiey Channel.

"They are born here, brought up here, grew up here, but they still link to (their ancestral roots). So this divides the people."

Mahathir lamented that people in the country identify themselves as 'Chinese Malaysian' and 'Indian Malaysian', saying, "Because of that (strong sense of racial identity), they cannot be assimilated."

According to him, people in multiracial countries forsake the identity of their origin country once they adopt citizenship of the country they live in

Mahathir claimed that these people only identify themselves with the country they are currently at.

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.

Mahathir also pointed how Malaysian Chinese are following Chinese nationals when naming their children.

"Like changing names, for example, China decided to spell names with a lot of 'X', 'Z', and all that. Now, Malaysians are also doing that," he related.

"But we are Malaysians. We have our own Chinese. The tendency is always to identify with the country of origin."

Image for illustration purposes only.

Image via Yayasan Perpaduan Malaysia via JUICE Online

The host of the book launch then asked whether Malaysia should follow Indonesia's controversial footsteps to force Indonesian Chinese into assimilation

Mahathir contended that 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.

"They (Malaysian Chinese and Indians) preserve their own community, their own customs, and their own way of living," opined the Langkawi member of Parliament.

"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."

Image for illustration purposes only.

Image via Roka Akor

Earlier, the former premier 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," said Mahathir.

You can watch Mahathir speaking on the matter at the 19:22 mark below:

Early this year, Counter Extremism Project (CEP) said Mahathir is a "controversial figure":

In October last year, Mahathir drew international outrage over a series of tweets following the beheading of a history teacher in Paris: