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Mamak culture should be promoted

June 28, 2012

FMT LETTER: From Stephen Ng, via e-mail

I am pleased to read that the Indian Muslim community in Penang will be holding a one-day carnival on July 7 to promote its own culture. In the last couple of years, the name Mamak in Penang has been damaged by a small group of them who created one issue after another. Even people living in other parts of the country, when they read the news, we cannot help but to think this is part of the Mamak culture at the expense of the bigger Indian Muslim community.

It is high time that the Indian Muslim community does something to repair its own image. Most of us, being fellow Malaysians, can say we are proud of the Mamak food and beverages. Malaysian teh tarik and cappati have become a big hit even amongst Malaysians overseas. I remember when my wife and I were overseas, we craved for the cappati but we could never find a glass of teh tarik that could beat our Mamak stalls.

Our Indian Muslim friends should be proud to be known as Mamak. It has become synonymous to Baba Nyonya when it comes to food. Just as the Baba Nyonya are famous for their cuisines, we have the Mamak Mee Goreng, Mamak Mee Rojak and many others.

If anyone who ever looks down on the Indian Muslim community, I believe it is their very own kind. They should, in fact, extend an invitation to former Prime Minister, Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad, who came from an Indian Muslim parentage, to grace the occasion.

When he was studying at the National University of Singapore, Mahathir was formerly known by his original name, Mahathir a/l Iskandar Kutty. The name Kutty shows that his forebears were from Kerala in India. For some reasons, his eldest sister retained the family Kutty to the day of her death, but Mahathir dropped the name totally.

I am told that there was a whole documentary made to glorify Mahathir, but the part about his Kerala heritage was totally removed subsequently. Frankly, I am not amused by such an act of self-denial. To my knowledge no culture in the world has ever adopted the maternal lineage, by severing the paternal lineage.

If that were the case, Mahathir should have been known as Mahathir bin Wan Tempayan, to be named after his own mother of Malay descent. To me, it was an act lacking in filial piety to deny one’s original heritage, and once a Kutty, forever a Kutty. In the case of the Chinese, once an Ng, forever Ng, even though you may be adopted from a Lim family, and there is nothing wrong being a Kutty or an Ng.

Mahathir should in fact be proud of his Mamak heritage. If he is ashamed, as a fellow Malaysian, I am ashamed of him.


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