Malays are not immigrants, says Dr M

By Shannon Teoh, The Malaysian Insider

KUALA LUMPUR, March 4 — Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad dismissed yesterday claims that Malays are immigrants just like Chinese and Indians, arguing instead that Arabs, Indians and Indonesians had become Constitutional Malays through assimilation.

“I would not say I am a Malay or Malaysian of ethnic Indian origin. My mother tongue and home language is Malay, my culture and tradition is Malay and I am a Muslim. The constitution defines a Malay as a person who habitually speaks Malay, practices Malay custom and tradition and is a Muslim,” he said in a posting on his blog.

He said it was obvious some Malays were descended from people of the Indonesian islands, India and the Arabian peninsular.

“Having come here they were assimilated after they identified themselves completely with the Malays by adopting the Malay language, their customs and traditions and by being Muslims.

“This is a common phenomenon. In America, Australia, Latin America, the later immigrants accepted the languages of their adopted country as their mother tongue as well as the culture.

“After doing this they no longer think of themselves as being of their original country. They are Americans, Australians and Argentinians period.

“We don’t hear them claiming to be German Americans, Portuguese Australians or Italian Argentinians, even though they or their ancestors came from these countries,” said Dr Mahathir.

The former prime minister wrote in his blog that Malays would only say they are Bugis or Javanese if asked about their ancestry but it would be mischievous to suggest that this was their race.

Dr Mahathir has in recent years stepped up his defence of the constitutional position of the Malays, and has been criticised for lending credibility to right-wing groups like Perkasa.

His strident tone has resulted in accusations that he was playing the race card in an attempt to shore up support for Umno.

In his blog post, Dr Mahathir said that his remarks in defending the Malays were to rebut “the anti-Malay racism of the opposition.”

He said that “those who support racist statements by the opposition are the real racists.”

“They shout racist at others to distract from their own racism,” he said.