Dr M: I didn’t play race card with chopsticks remark

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Claims he simply wanted to show the differences in culture in the country.

Former prime minister Dr Mahathir Mohamad today sought to clear up his chopsticks’ remark as an analogy to describe the Chinese community’s failure to assimilate itself in Malaysia.

Last month, Mahathir remarked that the Chinese had maintained their culture and way of life in Malaysia, citing the use of chopsticks instead of “adopting the Malaysian way of eating” with one’s hands.

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His comment met with backlash from Malaysians and leaders who said it was offensive and insensitive to the Chinese.

However, Mahathir explained that he did not play the racial card, saying he simply wanted to show the differences in culture in the country.

“I didn’t play the racial card. I wanted to talk about different cultures among different races,” he said in an interview with CityPlus radio this morning.

Citing the cultures in other countries, he said foreigners who wished to become citizens of a particular country would adopt the local culture and eventually abandon their own culture, but the same could not be said about Malaysia.

“In Malaysia, the Chinese and Indians insist on maintaining their cultures,” he said.

Lim Huey Teng/Reuters

Mahathir also said that every Malaysian must speak the national language, like the Malays.

“We must have one common language, one common culture,” he said.