KUALA LUMPUR – Former prime minister Tun Dr Mahathir caused a stir after he remarked that the Chinese community’s insistence to use chopsticks to eat was the reason why they have yet to “assimilate”.
During the official launch of his new memoir, Capturing Hope: The Struggle for a New Malaysia yesterday (Dec 12), Mahathir claimed that those residing in multiracial countries often abandon the identity of their country of origin once becoming citizens of the adoptive country.
He then used the Chinese community using chopsticks to eat as an example to prove his claim that they were unwilling to form a common Malaysian identity.
For example, 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,” he said as reported by MalaysiaKini.
Mahathir’s statement has since caused outrage online, with netizens condemning him for his insensitive and racially-charged tone.
Mahathir’s predecessor, former prime minister Najib Razak, also took the opportunity to poke fun at his statement by posting a photo of him joining a lou sang event with…you guessed it, a pair of chopsticks.
LGE: ‘It doesn’t make one less Malaysian’
Mahathir’s remarks also invited a strong rebuke from DAP secretary-general Lim Guan Eng, who called it “simplistic” and “offensive” to the Chinese community.
He also noted that Mahathir’s linking the use of chopsticks with it being a symbol of Chinese identity was erroneous as cutlery is a vital part of any culture.
Does a Malay using chopsticks or fork and spoon to eat lose his Malayness? In fact, many non-Chinese Malaysians and Westerners are proud of their ability to use both chopsticks as well as fork and spoon without any loss of their national identity.
Eating with chopsticks doesn’t make one less Malaysian,” he said in a statement.
Lim also added that Malaysian Chinese born in the country have always been loyal to Malaysia and never aligned themselves with China.
“Malaysians of Chinese descent born here are proud of our loyalty to Malaysia and have no wish to return to a China growing with wealth and prosperity, even if given an opportunity to do so,” he said.
Editor: Sarah Yeoh