‘Interlok a classic work of Malaysian racism’


Centre for Policy Initiatives (CPI) director Lim Teck Ghee has added his voice to calls for the novel Interlok to be removed from the Form Five Malay literature syllabus due to its perpetuation of “offensive stereotyping” of minorities.

This, while the controversial novel celebrates the virtues of the Malay race, culture and value system.

As such, Lim noted, it has led some quarters to see the novel as “the classic Malaysian racist book”.

In remarks e-mailed to Malaysiakini today, the former academician-turned-social activist said some may be tempted to invoke freedom of expression to justify maintaining the book as required reading in secondary schools.

That same “freedom to offend” would not, however, be granted if the offence were against Malays, he noted.

There is concern, furthermore, with the prospect of predominantly Malay literature teachers teaching students the novel and its racially-slanted messages.

While anger has been expressed mainly by Indian groups and politicians against the negative portrayal of the community in the novel – including the use of the term ‘pariah’ – ire has also been raised on the perpetuation of stereotypes relating to ethnic Chinese.

Stressing against the call for the book to be banned “in the same way in which the government has banned so many other books”, Lim said Interlok should not be in the prescribed literature curriculum and “certainly not let loose on young and impressionistic minds”.

It should be not made an exam text, furthermore, whereby students are liable to be coerced into giving the “officially correct” reading of the novel in their answer papers, and whose correctness is determined by the authorities marking the exam papers.

“This will poison young minds and bring unintended harmful consequences to race relations in the country,” he said.

Lim also questioned why the novel was now being made compulsory and enjoying “political patronage” when it had failed to impress the literati when it was first published in 1971 – four years after the manuscript had languished in obscurity, claimed Lim.

“It is not unreasonable to deduce that the book’s publication in 1971 was agenda-driven. The political scenario at that time, that is, the 1969 race riots and the introduction of the NEP in the following year, was rapidly evolving and veering to outright Malay nationalism.

“The decision – made only last year – to include Interlok in the reading list, is equally suspect as the 40-year-old book had in the past not got any rave reviews from either the reading public or the writing fraternity,” he added.

Expressing surprise that members of the government panel tasked with reviewing the book for its “offensive bits” had agreed to working under such a limited scope, Lim said the transparency of the exercise was suspect, given that the government had reportedly succumbed to Malay pressure groups in other issues.
“It was not paragraphs or sections of the book that were in question, although there were innumerable instances of racial stereotyping, historical errors and misrepresentation of Chinese and Indian culture and society.

“Instead, it is the sum total of the book that needs to be rejected,” he added.

Although the rejection of the book on grounds of its unsuitability as a school textbook is not part of the terms of reference, he hoped the review panel would have the courage to arrive at this decision in view of the overwhelming evidence presented on the racially offensive overall thrust of the book.

Whatever the outcome of the review process, Lim challenged cabinet members to read the book – or the translation of the book – and “decide for themselves whether they would permit their own children to be exposed to it.”

More against ‘Interlok’

The Chinese Assembly Hall Youth also lent their weight against the novel.

Besides reinforcing the stereotype of Chinese and Indians as outsiders and immigrants, and the Chinese as deceitful and greedy, the novel also unconsciously promotes the idea of Malay supremacy, said chairperson of the Kuala Lumpur and Selangor Chinese Assembly Hall Youth, Ng Chong Soon (left).

Although this might destroy relations between the ethnic communities in the country, this “is exactly what a race-based political party like Umno would need to serve its political agenda”, said Ng in a statement.

While freedom of expression should be respected,he added that narrow political interests should be kept out of education.

Echoing Lim’s comments, he also said the novel is rich in racial discrimination and factual errors.
“For example, the Chinese Anti-Japanese Army was depicted as wanting to build a small China in Malaya. And Indians were described as thinking that the Indian government takes better care of the Indians compared to Malaya’s government.”

The Ministry of Education should not have amended the school syllabus and selected ‘Interlok’ as a compulsory textbook unless it is treated as an example of racial discrimination, Ng stressed.
Meanwhile, The Human Rights Party’s (HRP) will hold an ‘anti-Interlok’ forum at the KL & Selangor Chinese Assembly Hall tonight, while the ‘People’s march in solidarity against Umno’s racism’ is set for Sunday.
‘Interlok’, written by national laureate Abdullah Hussein, became controversial when it was selected as a Malay literature textbook for Form Five.

Several parties then opposed it on grounds it contains words and incidents deemed demeaning to Indian Malaysians.
Education Minister MuhyiddinYassin had announced on Jan 27 that the novel would remain as a textbook for Form Five, but with amendments to parts deemed offensive by the Indian community.

  1. #1 by Saint on Friday, 25 February 2011 - 1:22 pm

    Why is NOT PR joining in the protest? Are you not our Saudara?

  2. #2 by dagen on Friday, 25 February 2011 - 1:56 pm

    NEP has failed to lift the general malay populace, economically. It only succeeded in sending a small number of them skywards. The BTN course, which was designed to prop up them up psychologically, too is not producing the desired result. Now umno is using a more direct approach. Interlok. Through formal school teachings, umno tells malay kids that indians are pariahs and chinese are useless for they sell their daughters. Umno’s grand design here is to depress the position of the rest of us. A depression of the surrounding would certainly have an elevating effect on one’s position. That is relative. And that too is deceitful for it is totally unreal.

    But would our fellow malay malaysians be duped? That is the question. No. Not those who are educated. Not those who are properly informed. Not those who like the rest of us who have the ability to reason out issues. Lets hope they help themselves and the country by reaching out to those village-folks and exposing them to the devils in umno.

  3. #3 by k1980 on Friday, 25 February 2011 - 2:01 pm

    //Inter-lok was first published in 1971 – four years after the manuscript had languished in obscurity…The decision – made only last year – to include Interlok in the reading list, is equally suspect as the 40-year-old book had in the past not got any rave reviews from either the reading public or the writing fraternity//

    Why not substitute it with Mao’s little red book? Or Gaddafi’s little green book?

  4. #4 by undertaker888 on Friday, 25 February 2011 - 2:39 pm


  5. #5 by donplaypuks on Friday, 25 February 2011 - 4:32 pm

    ‘Interlok’ is a book of no literary merit whatsoever. Everyone knows that!

    But now the Ministry and Minister of Education, Perkasa, UMNo and UMNO Youth have all thrown their weight against withdrawal of the book on the grounds of merit!

    This is really the evil and pernicious effect of 40 years of ill-executed affirmative action, that worthless policies should not be shelved in favour of racism and bigotry and promotion of jingoistic and chauvinism.

    All that’s been achieved is that the author has suddenly become very rich due to UMNO patronage. ! Malaysia? My foot!

    we are all of 1 Race, the Human race

  6. #6 by jus legitimum on Friday, 25 February 2011 - 5:35 pm

    When they want to fish votes from the non Malays,they shout 1 Malaysia.These racists cum religious bigots are real cheats,hypocrites and opportunistsAll wise voters will chase the devils and state robbers out of Putra Jaya come next GE.At the meantime beware of the wolves in sheep’s clothing.

  7. #7 by undertaker888 on Friday, 25 February 2011 - 6:50 pm

    …in continuation with my inter-unlok book bigotry and stereotyping…

    Yes, we have many malay babies either ended up in the latrines or the river banks. those babies who were born this way, but fortunate enough to survive, later ended up becoming the government of the day. Since there were so many of them and formed the majority.

    yassin, another hasan’s neighbour, drove around in his 400Krm mercedes. well, many have question how can yasin afford to buy a mercedes since he only earn $1500 as a govt servant section head?

    It is later learnt that yassin is a corrupted public servant. every licence that needs his approval, he is asking for duit kopi. it is not only yassin that is on the take, but hussein, ibrahim, abdullah as well, the whole govt agencies.

    Chin Seng and Raju were wondering, how these people who are so pious outwardly can be so corrupted inwardly. Are they so willing to sell their souls for what they called “rezeki” from above? if this is rezeki from above, is god also corrupted? maybe can buy our way out of hell?

  8. #8 by Godfather on Friday, 25 February 2011 - 7:01 pm

    Undertaker888 has a framework for a new novel called Inter-unlock which is destined to be the next literature masterpiece for life in Malaysia. It will even outsell Gone With The Wind. I should let undertaker888 outline his masterpiece to all of us.

  9. #9 by haneasme on Friday, 25 February 2011 - 9:29 pm


    Now everyday what ever a Malay man do or said is corrupt or racist, however when somebody sing negarakuku ‘tak pa dia budak muda belum matang. Bullshit. When some idiot posted a bloody stupid and racist comment ie comment #7 undertaker888 IS NOT PROVOKING, go to hell.

  10. #10 by tak tahan on Friday, 25 February 2011 - 10:48 pm

    Hello..ar ..Mr undertaker888,you mean Mat Rempit also become the government of the day?Wa..all terror terror one hah?I heard bohsia also can le.One elite bohsia now is the special PR to najis you tau hah?All one hell of terror terror 1.Kia si lang!!!

  11. #11 by Thor on Friday, 25 February 2011 - 11:04 pm

    Why the outcry?
    Whatever those Umno guys do to us, we just have to live with it.
    We do admit that many of us are really a “pariah” indeed as you can do see in many buy elections.
    Carrying BN flags and running around canvassing votes for those Umno buggers.
    Indians can be “pariah” for just RM250 and chinese can be a “dog” for just RM3,000.
    Umno have to survive being a racist and we can’t blame them for that.
    Just wait for the next GE and you’ll agree with me many of us really indeed deserve to be “pariah” after all.

  12. #12 by ablastine on Saturday, 26 February 2011 - 1:30 am

    They call the Indians pariah and the Chinese prostitute but the Indians and the Chinese are the ones who kept these racists in power in the first place. Some traitor MCA Chinese are good pals of Perkasa. The Chinese and Indians have only themselves to blame for having so many traitors amongst themselves.

  13. #13 by sotong on Saturday, 26 February 2011 - 6:01 am

    Most of us are racist….but we are not aware of it.

  14. #14 by Thor on Saturday, 26 February 2011 - 9:07 am

    Most of us are racist….but we are not aware of it.- by sotong

    To what extend, mr sotong?
    Only a handful could be and not most, as what you stated was wrong.
    Who started being racist anyway?
    It’s not the malay, chinese nor the indian.
    It’s the mamak fella!
    We used to live in peace and harmony during the sixties and seventies until this devil came along and started wrecking our relations.
    The malays are shallow thinking and trusted him well till many are trained to be heavily corrupted and even lost track of their religious teachings as well.
    Everyone of us are being made plain stupid and it’s the mamak fella who’s cunning though evil.
    We “curse” and hate each other sometimes and this always make the mamak happy and proud because he thinks that he’ll be next to lucifer’s throne.
    Just count on how many more mamak are holding high position in this country and addressing themselves as a malay.
    We just loved to be dupe by them and there could be one day that Malaysia will soon be named Mamaksia.
    Who knows!!!

  15. #15 by dagen on Saturday, 26 February 2011 - 9:43 am


  16. #16 by Loh on Saturday, 26 February 2011 - 11:42 am

    Racism in Malaysia has become a medium for making money, through politics. Mamakthir is said he is not a racist because he knows deep down in his heart that he does not fight for his race. He sold his race and adopts another. UMNoputras have to show that they love their race because that is the qualification to be in position that allow them to cheat and grow rich.

    There are people who are righteous. They would object to what are wrong. The people who voice opposition to interlock not because that they are afraid of being associated to the race that had been labelled, in a novel, as involved in selling daughter. That book might provide reading as to what could happen to a poor family trying to find easy way out of poverty, but when it is accepted as a textbook, the ulterior motives are suspect. It is not defending the race that people are against the use of interlok, it is the insistence of the Education Minister to make it the textbook at all cost.

    NEP is racist. But what is worse than the implementation is that Mamak utilizes it to enrich persons rather than to alleviate poverty as the first objective. Besides, the government has arbitrarily enlarged the pool of persons as beneficiaries just so that they enlarge the votes base.

  17. #17 by k1980 on Saturday, 26 February 2011 - 12:24 pm

    Sample spm questions from the Form Five Malay literature text “interlok”

    1. Explain why the kaki botols are called pariah in malaya. [30marks]

    2. Explain in detail why the mata sepets need to sell their daughters.[30marks]

    3. Explain in detail how the kaki botols and the mata sepets planned to take over the country.[40marks]

  18. #18 by monsterball on Saturday, 26 February 2011 - 1:47 pm

    It looks like Malaysians are falling into UMNO B’s traps to talk as a race
    Maybe many love to be racists … and not be proud Malaysians?
    If so…why complaint about Najib’s bunkum “1 Malaysia” slogan?

  19. #19 by undertaker888 on Saturday, 26 February 2011 - 8:23 pm

    ///bloody stupid and racist comment ie comment #7 undertaker888 IS NOT PROVOKING, go to hell///

    you see what I am trying to provoke here. we are feeling the same way haneasme is feeling right now. but the racist regime does not care how the others feel. They try to make others look bad so that one type of people can feel good.

    this is evil. anyone can be a bigot and stereotype. but making it a literature to teach to our children this crap is obscene. they know it but still go ahead with it. this is institutionalized discrimination.

  20. #20 by tak tahan on Sunday, 27 February 2011 - 12:06 am

    Sotong,please put forth your facts and figures right.We all Malaysians regardless of races,especially from the past patriots,fought all along brotherly for this so called,dreamed by many,already to be independent country,Malaysia.. but we were then and now considered the pendatang excluding them which were sidelined.We are all entitled to every equal citizenship right.Do your homework please!

  21. #21 by pwcheng on Sunday, 27 February 2011 - 5:50 am

    That same “freedom to offend” would not, however, be granted if the offence were against Malays, he noted.
    You said it, and you hit the nail on the head. However we must bear in mind that this is the work of the pariah UMNO who is the devil behind all these to create disunity among the races for them to survive. The 1Malaysia is a an empty slogan put up by UMNO as a false front to deceive the non- Malays for their votes only and nothing more. Unfortunately there are many Indians and Chinese who are naive enough to be deceived by this empty slogan created by UMNO to win votes.

    Coming back to my comment that Mr Lim had hit the nail on the head, I think many of us can remember that UMNO made a big hue and cry, and agitated to have the words removed from the Oxford Dictionary when it described the Malay as a race that is lazy and mediocre.

  22. #22 by sotong on Sunday, 27 February 2011 - 6:19 am

    Politics of race over the past decades had a significant influence over our relationship with other races, in particular the Malays.

  23. #23 by monsterball on Sunday, 27 February 2011 - 10:44 am

    Sotong…you are right and very wrong too.
    In the past….you are absolutely right…as we have no strong alternative until 12th GE.
    After 12th GE…you should help not to keep talking race issues…as by doing so..you are in fact…too calculative and selfish like.
    Let it be..that majority Malays are racists…but day by day..that is getting lesser ad lesser due to love for the country and people…plus PAS and keDAILan have 95% members…mostly Malays..are pricking these racists conscience too.
    MCA and Gerakan are shaming the Chinese. Why don’t you focus and talk about these racists.
    12th GE have given us hope.
    Do be optimistic .. knowledgeable…and put your best foot forward….to fight for freedom ..not keep feeling sad and concern.

  24. #24 by monsterball on Sunday, 27 February 2011 - 10:50 am

    Sotong…do you believe UMNO B will govern forever?
    If not….it means more and more Malays will vote against corruptions and dictatorship.
    How can they do that..if a commentator like you…is not helping them..to make the see the right ways.
    If you do not know how to convince and persuade…please read and keep quiet.

  25. #25 by monsterball on Sunday, 27 February 2011 - 11:05 am

    Sotong….I have asked you few times…are you a qualified voter and you kept quiet.
    Presuming you can vote…and care..then cast your vote against BN…on 13th GE…and you can feel proud…you have done your best.
    All of us..are doing our best…for a Malaysian Malaysia by getting rid of a racist government..applying double standards and steal with no fear..as they have governed for 55 years..with an iron fist..and made all laws to protect themselves.
    Ar you a voter..or a school boy?
    Be brave to respond…or shut up.

  26. #26 by k1980 on Sunday, 27 February 2011 - 11:29 am

    The Official “Guidelines for the writing of textbooks” issued by the Text book division of the MOE


  27. #27 by Supreme Healer on Sunday, 27 February 2011 - 12:00 pm

    It is evil to poison the mind of innocence and young. We must eliminated the evils. We must not enter interlok lessons. Worst come to worst, we abolish our education system.

  28. #28 by tak tahan on Sunday, 27 February 2011 - 1:19 pm

    Yo Yo haneasme,at least,now,we know that you too have some feeling left in you.Thank thank you.We actually just shower you back with that sort of love you considered noble and brotherly affection.Here is the full shower of rain love to you.


  29. #29 by Taxidriver on Sunday, 27 February 2011 - 5:44 pm

    Somebody tell me where I can get the book on stories of flushing out of babies in toilet bowls just like toilet tissues! Who can be so inhumane to do such things? So Bad….So Bad….So Bad

    The title of the book is ‘IN’-teruk, right?

  30. #30 by tak tahan on Sunday, 27 February 2011 - 9:58 pm

    Hallo Taxidriver,you never got seduction from your client,bohsia meh?They also got the book 1.Come to worst case for not been available,drive your taxi to government service offices or the most ravishing Putrajaya offices to get the free book.The title of the book has just changed to ‘BINTI’ -teruk teruk.

  31. #31 by good coolie on Sunday, 27 February 2011 - 10:55 pm

    Hey, fellas! I read a book long ago. This innocent Malay fellow was oppressed by a money lending Indian (believe it or not, we Indian were usurious money lenders! Nowadays we have Malay-owned finance companies that don’t charge interest at all). Anyway, where was I, … yes, and there were the horrible Chinese middlemen sucking the blood of Malay-farmers’ . Finally, the poor Malay fellow killed a Chinese (or Indian?) – my memory fails me! I remember the final scene: our innocent murderer is looking out from a Black Maria (mobile prison) and the voice of the author says that it is all the fault of Indians and Chinese.

    Hey, Ah Chong, if you don’t help Ramasamy stop this Interlock, Ramasamy won’t support you when this other literary laureatre’s book is the required reading in school next year. Come on Ahmad, where are you? The last time we three had coffee together was during the Merdeka days. Have you abandoned us?

  32. #32 by monsterball on Monday, 28 February 2011 - 2:05 am

    Go buy Patrick Teoh’s …”TEOHLOGY” book.
    You know..the famous ‘NAIMAH” blog owner….the radio talk show host in the 60s?
    You sure can shit reading it in the toilet.

  33. #33 by monsterball on Monday, 28 February 2011 - 2:08 am

    Go buy Patrick Teoh’s ….”THEOLOGY” book.
    You know that “NAIMAH” comical blog owner?
    You sure can let go…reading in the toilet.

  34. #34 by Peter on Monday, 28 February 2011 - 2:58 pm

    What are those BN component parties like MCA/MIC/GERAKAN/PPP doing all this while????????. Either they are too scare to face their UMNO masters or has no balls whatsoever. Yet they have the guts (if they have} to say they are representing their communities. We have lost complete trust in them. They must still be in dreamland when they trumpet that they have back their communities support.
    Just wait for the GE13.

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