Now Chinese claim ‘Interlok’ racist
Having weathered a storm of controversy from the Indian community over the novel’s use of the word “pariah”, the Education Ministry now faces Chinese calls to drop the “racist” book from the Form Five Bahasa Malaysia syllabus.
In a statement today, Chinese associations from across Malaysia said the book was not only offensive to Indians but Chinese as well, as it depicted the character Kim Lock as a “miserly opium addict and callous adulterer” and his son, Cing Huat, as “cunning, greedy, unscrupulous and someone who would happily sell his daughters”.
“‘Interlok’ in its totality propagates the ideology of ketuanan Melayu. In our considered opinion, this novel is not only unhealthy but an insidious poison,” the statement said.
“In fact, ‘Interlok’ is barely a step away from the Biro Tata Negara (BTN) brainwashing that promotes racism and disunity. ‘Interlok’ conveys the central message that Chinese, Indian and other minorities are second-class citizens in addition to perpetuating the divisive notion of a host community (the Malays) versus foreigners (‘bangsa asing’ Cina dan India).”
The groups also condemned the “major thread” in the book, which depicts the Chinese “cheating and oppressing” Malays or as “nasty and immoral” communist guerrillas.
The statement was signed by the Kuala Lumpur and Selangor Chinese Assembly Hall (KLSCAH), LLG Cultural Development Centre, Malaysian-China Chamber of Commerce, the Federation of Chinese Associations Johor, the Penang Chinese Town Hall and 40 others, including the Malaysian Consultative Council of Buddhism, Christianity, Hinduism, Sikhism and Taoism (MCCBCHST), Saya Anak Bangsa Malaysia (SABM) and several Indian organisations.
Some excerpts appended as evidence of the book’s alleged racism include:
* “We eat anything. Roots if we can get them. We beg. We steal. We don’t have a daughter. If we have a daughter, we can sell her.” (Kim Hock, pp 119-120)
* Kim Lock takes Mei Hwa to smoke opium and has sex with her every time they meet like that. (p 200)
* In a big and strange city like this, people cannot be kind, if they are kind they can’t be rich. Here money becomes the measure. In this world, money is the number two God. (pp 155-156)
* “Cina Panjang says all that land rightfully belongs to him. The cows we kept are also his. My father pawned it to him.” (p 88)
* Seman said he gave all the land to Cina Panjang, and the Chinese man then asked Seman to leave the kampung. (p 92)
The associations pointed out, however, that they did not wish for national laureate Datuk Abdullah Hussain’s book to be edited — as demanded by Indian groups unhappy with the word “pariah” — but also called for the book not be used in schools.
They urged the Education Ministry not to allow “slurs” that hurt the feelings of the various communities to be uttered with impunity and asked that it substitute the book with reading material more suited to the classroom.
“State-endorsed literature should rightly promote contemporary progressive values such as democracy, freedom, equality and human rights. Living in Malaysia of the 21st century, we ought to advocate ‘Ketuanan Rakyat’ instead of sponsoring a parochial and narrow ethnic hegemony,” the statement added.
“Interlok” was written by Abdullah in 1971 and chronicles the daily struggles of the Malays, Chinese and Indians in pre-independence Malaya.
Education Minister Tan Sri Muhyiddin Yassin said last week that the Cabinet had asked Dewan Bahasa dan Pustaka (DBP) to edit the novel in order to replace terms offensive to Indians but refused to drop the book completely.
Muhyiddin added that his ministry will also provide a glossary to explain the phrases and concepts to students to provide historical context.