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Keling: Racism and the Word

Contributed by Anonymous on Sunday, October 30 @ 01:56:59 CDT

Communityby Jane Mun, Editor of 11-August-2003

Recently there has been a lot of brou-ha-ha over the inclusion of the word "keling" in the Kamus Dewan, published by the Dewan Bahasa dan Pustaka (DBP). The Angkatan Pelopor Indian Muslim Selangor dan Wilayah Perseketuan (Apim) is taking legal action against the DBP for publishing the said word in its latest edition of the Kamus Dewan. The group's main reason for doing so is because the particular word concerned is derogatory to Malaysians of Indian origin. They therefore want the word to be struck off from the dictionary.

Even if they succeed legally in having the word removed from the dictionary, does this mean that the word no longer exists in the Malay language? Personally, I do not think that Apim has a strong case as insulting metaphors or racial slurs are not limited to Indians only. The Chinese have been termed as "chinks" while African Americans were associated with "niggers" in the English language. When it comes to racial slurs, each and every one of us is a victim.

Racial slurs are a universal phenomena and they exist in every language on this earth. It is human nature for a group of people from a certain culture to assign racial insults on other groups that do not share the same characteristics with them. It is up to parents or guardians to teach their children on how to handle racism. Having racial slurs forcibly removed from dictionaries not only do not address the problem as its root but a waste of time.

Assuming that Apim manages to win their case and this sets a precedent for other races to follow in its footstep to have the DBP remove racial slurs associated with their race, what will then become of the Kamus Dewan? For one, its thickness will definitely have a dramatic shrinkage. And the beauty of the Malay language will not be fully represented. It will also be a form of censorship that most Malaysians abhor as it infringes on our rights as citizens of the country.

Most important, the function of a dictionary is to explain the words of a language, arranged in an alphabetical order. And that includes explaining the meaning behind racial slurs. It does not promote racism. Narrow-minded human beings are the ones guilty of racism. So, please do not blame the Kamus Dewan or the people behind its publication. They are just doing their job.
Apim should not be so sensitive over the word "keling" and have its inclusion in the Kamus Dewan blown out of proportion. Its chairman, Rahim Abdullah should not have come to the conclusion that since the word "India" was not included in the Kamus Dewan, this would mean that the said word did not exist in the Malay language and therefore were Indians to be termed as "kelings"? This statement only shows the immaturity of the questioner. Datuk A. Aziz Deraman who is the Director General of the DBP had commented that the public cannot expect every word to be listed in the Kamus Dewan. He further added that the words "Kadazan" and "Iban" were also left out from the Dewan, clearly to show that DBP was not picking on the Indian race.

What if due to the complaint by Mr. Rahim over the word "India" and the DBP finally agrees to have it included in the Kamus Dewan along with "keling", will this satisfy him and Apim? Or they will still press on with their case until they reach their objective of having "keling" legally removed? Will this wipe out racism? If so, I will be the first one to fully support Mr. Rahim and Apim.



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