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Malaysia 101: The Chopstick Diplomacy, Look For Better Ways To Assimilate Malaysians

merdeka malaysia tunku abdul rahman independence

Just to recap for those who may not be keeping track of the years that had passed by since Malaysia (or rather Malaya) got its independence but it’s sad that after 64 years, we are still talking about assimilating the various races with different religions and cultures into one Bangsa Malaysia. Image source: Wikipedia

Read these first:-

Dr M’s Chopstick Example

Why chopsticks in the first place?

Well, as usual, the controversy starts with the Old Man.

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.”

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.”

(Source: Says)

food safety noodles soup Chinese

Try using your bare hands to grab these delicious noodles from the bowl full of hot soup. It is going to be messy, painful and dumb. You will need a fork or a chopstick to enjoy this meal.

Chopstick – A Very Bad Example

It’s funny that of all the examples that he could have used on how much Malaysians are disunited, he went on and picked chopsticks as the key example. So it does not take long for criticisms to swarm in.

Malaysians have not taken kindly to former premier Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad’s recent remark citing chopsticks as an example of why there are divisions in the country.

Some users on Twitter were also left perplexed by Dr Mahathir’s statements.

“Yes, eating with chopsticks resulted in separation, not the real race issues that are going on in our daily lives?” user Ashraff questioned.

“How else are we supposed to eat a boiling hot bowl of noodles? We can’t use our hands for that, can we? If we use a fork, does that mean we’re implementing Western culture?” user Kptan said.

Other social media users also said Dr Mahathir should be instilling unity instead.

“Diversity matters, there are other ways to assimilate. Countries like Australia with a single education system is able to bind all the ethnic groups together.

“They sing the national anthem and represent their country in sports and they excel.

Why can’t we do the same?” Twitter user Arief Amron said.

In agreeing with Arief, a user named Michael said the use of chopsticks had nothing to do with politics.

“Using chopsticks is (part of) a culture. Japanese and Koreans also use them. Also, there are many Chinese who do not know how to use chopsticks.

“It has nothing to do with politics, at all,” he said.

(Source: The Star)

Using chopsticks as an example is actually a very bad example considering that there are types of food that you cannot eat with your bare hands. The obvious one’s like noodles and sushi and that are why you don’t find noodles as the standard meals of the Indians in the past.

What Government Have Done On Assimilation?

The bigger question that Dr M knows but chose not to ask and answer considering he was the Prime Minister for the past 22 years is this – “What the Government have done in the past 64 years to actively assimilate Malaysians from various backgrounds, religions and culture”.

Think about it on some of the recent actions that have taken place in the past:-

There is nothing stopping shops with halal certification from decorating cakes with “Merry Christmas” greetings, says the Department of Islamic Development Malaysia (Jakim).

However, these cakes cannot be put on display at shops with the halal certification

He was commenting on a recent report in another portal which stated that a customer was shocked when he received a cake with “Happy Holidays” when he had requested that it be decorated with the wish “Merry Christmas.”

The report said the store had refused to do so since it was in the process of getting a halal certificate, quoting Jakim as claiming that the halal logo issued by the Halal Management System cannot be used to promote other religions.

(Source: The Star)

The infusion or rather the confusion of religion in State administration does not make good business sense. In fact, it put religion in bad light considering the rationale to impose certain rules does not make any sense. Like in the above case, how some words on a cake REQUESTED and PAID for by the customer can be deemed as promoting another religion.

The Education Ministry received an allocation of RM50.36 billion in Budget 2021.

Under the formula, national primary, secondary and boarding schools will get some RM477.48 million, while their government-aided counterparts will receive RM1.2 million.

Chinese vernacular schools will receive RM74.07 million, while Tamil vernacular schools will receive an allocation of RM29.98 million. Missionary schools will receive RM20.9 million and government-aided Islamic schools will receive RM12.23 million

(Source: The Malaysian Reserve)

Almost RM130 million of the taxpayers’ money is allocated for non-national schools that are segregated by language and religion. How that is going to improve the assimilation of the young ones from different backgrounds into one Bangsa Malaysia?

The other is the institutionalised race-based policies that are actively created and promoted. Despite this, the Government insists that the economic level of the Bumis still remains unacceptable whilst ignoring the fact those policies allow abuse, mismanagement and alienation of the non-Bumi Malaysians.

Bangsa Malaysia Unity

It is wrong to assume that the non-Malays are not passionate and caring about the direction of the nation. At the end of the day, all are in the boat and proud to call ourselves Bangsa Malaysia but politicians and lopsided national policies make one think that we are in a different country. Image source: Mob’s Crib

Better Ways for Assimilation

Forcing anyone to eat with their hands instead of chopsticks only shows that we are looking at things the wrong way and we miss the bigger picture. We can have different cultures, religions, races and even choices of food and how we eat them. That is what defines us in Malaysia and yet we are at the end are Malaysians.

So if the Government were serious with their Keluarga Malaysia (i.e. all part of a Malaysian Family), they need to seriously into these key obstacles towards getting the citizens assimilated into a Bangsa Malaysia.

  • Government-sponsored race-based policies are one-sided, abused and mismanaged and often taken advantage of by the elite few. The focus has always been on the Malays who are the majority but then again, every race has its own classes of rich and poor
  • Many types of schools in the country divide the young Malaysians by language, race and quality of education and over the years, this notion of preserving language and culture in schools have been used by political parties to make themselves relevant as the champion for their communities.
  • The lack of a stricter law against racial discrimination that is enforced and is punishable if there is any discrimination at businesses, workplace, advertisements for rental of office, etc based on the colour of the skin.

Final Say

The Federal Constitution of Malaysia 1963, as amended to 2019 expressly mentions

(1) All persons are equal before the law and entitled to the equal protection of the law.

(2) Except as expressly authorized by this Constitution, there shall be no discrimination against citizens on the ground only of religion, race, descent, place of birth or gender in any law or in the appointment to any office or employment under a public authority or in the administration of any law relating to the acquisition, holding or disposition of property or the establishing or carrying on of any trade, business, profession, vocation or employment.

(Source: UN Women)

And yet, we fall short of the requirements stated in our Federal Constitution and the source of this has been our politicians who often use the notion of race, religion and royalty for the sake of cheap politics and jostling for powers. There is no sincerity from them to set aside their politics and to look at how to unite the citizens of the country.

If these politicians are indeed serious in assimilating all into one proper Bangsa Malaysia, then forget about culture, race and religion. These are the unique characteristics of Malaysia and one that sets us apart from other countries in the region. But instead assimilate the citizens with equal opportunities at business, education and social standing.

Put the best citizen at public offices and key Government posts regardless of their race and religion. Engage the young minds and instead of controlling what they can say & do, get them to think about how they can propel the country further. Give them the freedom and the room to execute their ideas.

Uphold the rule of law and eliminate double standards between the normal citizens and VVIPs and politicians. Apply the law, fines and summonses equally regardless of who the person is. When there is a sense of fairness and equal opportunities, it is easy for the citizens to buy-in the notion of one, united Bangsa Malaysia. Otherwise, it will remain as politicians hallow slogan, chanted whenever they want to distract the masses from the real issues at hand.

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