Mahathir Says Non-Malays Should Assimilate With Malays To Form One 'Bangsa Malaysia'

The former prime minister said Chinese and Indian immigrants wanted integration over assimilation to preserve their respective cultures.

Cover image via Keluar Sekejap (Facebook)

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Former prime minister Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad has claimed that Chinese and Indian immigrants refused to assimilate into the Malay community when the country gained independence

Mahathir said this during the Keluar Sekejap podcast, hosted by former UMNO Youth chief Khairy Jamaluddin and Shahril Hamdan.

He said immigrants in the past sought integration rather than assimilation because they aimed to preserve the culture from their countries of origin.

He also said Malaysia was historically Tanah Melayu, declaring it to be the land of the Malays.

"But when the migrants wished to retain their identities and went as far as to dispute the ownership of this country to be not a Malay country but a multicultural one, that means we have lost our country," he said.

Khairy said Malaysia has never insisted on assimilation for Chinese and Indian immigrants, and that citizens were allowed to retain their languages and cultures

Mahathir responded by saying, "They refused, not that we did not insist. We wanted them to become Malay but they looked down on us. They didn't want to be known as Malays."

Khairy pointed out that Malaysia's concept of integration is more favoured compared to other countries such as Indonesia and Thailand, which practise assimilation.

"Everyone [in Malaysia] has their own name, their own descendants, their mother language," Khairy said.

Mahathir then responded that some people identify themselves as Malays, while others associate their identity with their countries of origin.

"Yes, it is a multiracial (society). We have to admit that. But on one hand we have assimilation, on the other hand we have integration. This doesn't happen in other countries," Mahathir said.

Mahathir then claimed that Malaya was desperate to gain independence, leading the Malays to accept Chinese and Indian immigrants as Malayan citizens, even if they did not wish to become Malay.

Image for illustration purposes only.

Image via FMT

Khairy brought up Mahathir's book, A Doctor in the House, highlighting that when Mahathir became prime minister for the first time in 1981, it was too late to implement assimilation

"You came up with the concept of Bangsa Malaysia. According to the book, your effort was to try to make Malaysians feel that they're Malaysian first. And not Malay, Chinese, or Indian," Khairy said.

Mahathir clarified, saying, "The Malaysians I defined are the Malays."

He claimed that being Malaysian first means that one does not tie themselves to their country of origin.

He used Indonesia as an example of a multiracial country where people have "successfully" assimilated and embraced the local culture.

"They do not call themselves Indonesian Malays or Indonesian Chinese but in Malaysia, we have Malaysian Chinese, Malaysian Malays," he said.

He questioned why non-Malays would want to retain their own cultures and languages, and separate themselves from the locals.

Khairy reiterated that implementing an assimilation system in today's world would be challenging

He also expressed that Malaysia's current model of integration has its merits.

"In today's world, where language is a tool or an economic weapon, I think this is a good thing. We have people who can speak Chinese and Tamil. The diversity of culture is our branding for our tourism."

Watch the full podcast here:

Dr Mahathir is no stranger to controversy, read more here:

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