I have only fond memories of the word, as it refers to either the famous food joint run by the Indian Muslim community or the bread man who comes ringing in his motorbike with a full load of goodies on his back.

I asked a few Indian Muslim friends too if the word Mamak is offensive and they said “No”. I even asked Ghani Jiman or Ghani Kulit- the one who famously led several anti-Lim Guan Eng demonstrations in Penang. He said “no”.

Ghani is awfully quiet these days, and the talk of the town is that he is hibernating for awhile now.

The word ‘Mamak” came up again at the Penang Speakers Square last Sunday. A regular, Uncle Alfred lamented that his fellow Malaysians have forgotten their roots.

He said they have become too sensitive that even words like ‘apek’ and ‘mamak’ – used in reference to the “elderly” in the Chinese and Tamil languages – can rub people up the wrong way.

He remembered using the word “apek” for the dear old ice cream man who comes in the afternoon and cheer up the neighbourhood kids with his tasty and colorful ice cream.

And the word “mamak” is often used as a respectable title for people instead of using “dei” which is rather rude.

”Is it wrong to call an Indian Muslim mamak? No, because mamak means Uncle in Tamil and the community speaks the language,” he said.

”Now Consumers Association of Penang chairman SM Mohamed Idris – I know him personally – blew his top when Guan Eng called him an old man. Should I call him Idris mamak then?” he asked.


”Some say it is disrespectful to use the word but I would like to tell the Indian Muslims that this is their own words and we have been using it all along instead of referring to someone as dei”.

I agree with Alfred that we truly have become very sensitive and forgot out roots, even languages, and histories.

In the case of SM Mohamed Idris, though, I do have a suggestion for politicians: Try not to use “sexist and ageist” words when making a political statement. It doesn’t help. It makes matter worst and the actual points or message you want to impart for the world to read gets derailed.

Do you honestly want that?

14 responses »

  1. Gilbert Wong says:

    Trying to be too politically correct, Malaysians are nowadays too thin skinned for their own good. If the word is used intentionally to degrade a whole community then,it is wrong. I wouldn’t be offended if the word was used amongst friends and in jest.

  2. Therefore along this grand son from Kerala, the shenanigan Mahthir is respected when the people called him a mamak ?
    If that is so why is he not admitting to be a mamak and is calling always himself to be a Malay ? Is it because of the benefits that the Malays are getting plus of course he can robbed the country blind as a Malay ?

  3. Ho Ho Ho says:

    Ho :mrgreen: Ho :mrgreen: Ho :mrgreen:

    :mrgreen: This 👿 mamak tiu-tiu 😈 already show its true color ❗ :mrgreen:

  4. xde says:

    are you naive or dumb? when a chinese uses the word mamak ,it’s a insult.just read and observe the comments in blogs ,news portal.lets’s face a fact ,chinese are the most racist and prejudiced race in this planet,especially towards dark skinned people aka indians.just read the comments in free malaysia today about indian problems,the majority of commenters on these are chinese.the most of it are very racist .but you being a bias reporter will not or refuse to see the truth.

  5. hasilox says:

    hehe….when keling can be racist word, what else cannot? So many places have keling in their name. In hokkien, keling-gia simply means indian. Thanks to the donkeys in dewan bahasa & pustaka.

    actually cina is also a racist word, if you call the famous cina tee. haha

  6. sloone says:

    Well Xde, when you mention Free Malaysia Today, I already know who you are.

    How many time have other races called the Chinese “cina babi, cina bukit” and a host of other racist names? I do not see the community acting up.

    Anyway, I am glad that although as you say I am a “bias” reporter, which I will pray to God forgive you, I am happy that you still read my blog.

    As for dumb and naive, well. Only one who is so can identify another of his kind.

  7. xde says:

    How many time have other races called the Chinese “cina babi, cina bukit” and a host of other racist names? I do not see the community acting up.”

    this is rich,this what i call short term memory loss ,malaysian mudah lupa . not acting up ,huh? pendatang means shit right?

    here’s your beloved chinese community who seems to be angels to your bias eyes
    “Yvonne Lay Leng Chew · Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia
    all the khee ling kwai from malyasia are the descedents of the pariah caste system bought by the british to work here as labourers, shit carriers, road sweepers and all the lowest grade job you can think of and they are there…you can’t blame them, really. it is in teir roots, never use their brains.”

    the truth is ,the chinese have no moral high ground and the condescending behaviour will backfire bigtime.

  8. Ho Ho Ho says:

    Ho :mrgreen: Ho :mrgreen: Ho :mrgreen:

    :mrgreen: Well said 💡 Susan 💡 , “mamak” is not a racist word n even most of my Malay & Indians frens also says…..”jom kita pi kedai mamak makan & minum” …n only those with bad intention n negative thinking will say yes + cari pasai….bcoz they themselves are racist… :mrgreen:

    Ho :mrgreen: Ho :mrgreen: Ho :mrgreen:

  9. sloone says:

    Well well Xde…if you are going to react to every racist shit, you are just as racist yourself. That is all I can say. Rest my case.

  10. wits0 says:

    Xde shioks sendiri with victimhood. No one can stop him from that.

  11. sloone says:

    A victim will always remain a victim, it’s a comfortable position, I guess. Other just put aside the racist taunts and move on, becoming millionaires in more ways than one – says the “bias” reporter.


  12. mythbuster says:

    The word ‘MAMAK’ used to be a innocuous word to address an Indian Muslim. It has now transmogrified into something very evil when the great mamak, Mahathir Mohamad Kutty disclaimed himself as one of that hard working community originating from India.

    When the great mamak gave up his ancestoral heritage and claims to be a Malay, he set the change in mood and perception about the mamaks as a whole. The attitude of the mamak community in Penang does not help either. As members of UMNO, they are in the forefront in creating disharmony and inciting racial strife in Penang and elsewhere.

    Is it any wonder why Malaysians despise the mamaks and turn that harmless word into one with derogatory terms?

  13. wits0 says:

    Exactly, Mythbuster, you’ve put things very nicely and simply enough!

    People cannot pretend that words do not accrue any linkage with detested existential behaviour when associated with some over time. Such meanings change for the worse as some people become associated with objectionable actions.

    Normal human reactiion.

  14. iwc says:

    IF & only IF anyone equated it as mama-lia otherwise bukan hina lah !!

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