Interlok: Chinese sell their daughters

Page 160, scanned excerpt from ‘Interlok’.

If you thought ‘pariah’ was the worst insult there is in the novel ‘Interlok’, you’re mistaken.

It is filled with every conceivable racial stereotype of Indians and Chinese that you can think of, applied hodge-podge but in over-abundance to the main characters.

Below are scans from the book. We’re using the original, ISBN 983-62-5578-8. There is a new abridged version tagged ‘Edisi Murid’, edited for students however.

Pages 119-120: Kim Lock, the father of the Chinese main character Cing Huat, is depicted by the novelist Abdullah Hussain as someone quite prepared to sell a daughter.

Page 151: Kim Lock is tempted by the bad guy Paman Kok Leng to sell Cing Huat. Because Cing Huat is a boy, the father has qualms. However, he would consider the proposition if the child was a girl.

Pages 232-233:

‘Gua menyesal gua dapat dua [anak] lelaki saja. Kalau ada orang mau tukar anak lelakinya dengan Poh Eng dan Poh Kheng gua mau sekarang ini.’

Cing Huat, now a father himself, is portrayed by Abdullah as someone who is in turn prepared to trade his daughters (for boys) without second thought.

This novel is full of negative racial stereotypes and BTN-like slurs. Remember Nasir Safar (the prime minister’s aide) who resigned after the comment (below) attributed to him:

‘Indians came to Malaysia as beggars and Chinese especially the women came to sell their bodies’

‘Interlok’ is filled with the same characterizations of Chinese — prostitutes, womanisers, gamblers, cheats, scumbags, opium addicts, and more. Although the Chinese have no ‘pariah’ in their language, Abdullah Hussain portrays the ones who came here as debased creatures and from the dregs of society.

So you must be wondering why it is only the Indian NGOs and political parties that have raised complaints and nothing is heard from the Chinese even when they have been similarly subjected to the implied ‘pariah’ slurs?

UPDATE (March 14): Connected story, ‘Baby’s throat slashed, parents, siblings slaughtered


UPDATED, Hartal Interlok series



29 Responses to “Interlok: Chinese sell their daughters”
  1. Samy Vellu says:

    Why don’t you guys who have so much complain write a book about the Malays in good BM and pass it to students free on how the grandfather rapes his grand children and other sexual and immoral crimes. Then they will see the problem of narrow minded people writing about others. “Those who live in glass houses don’t throw stones.”

  2. JL says:

    I am Chinese Malaysian, I don’t know about we Chinese selling our off springs now, what I do know that some men of Abdullah Hussain’s community still today thinks and demand that all those women in their household be their wives, grandmother, daughters, sisters, granddaughters are there for their sexual gratification. Some of us may recall what Mahathir wrote in his book The Malay Delima. He wrote there are too much inbreeding amongst the Malays, how else can the inbreeding come about? To me Interlok is Abdullah Hussain’s way of expressing his frustrations with the Malay community.

    • haredas says:

      im truely agree wif u…

    • max says:

      Actually, whether chinese in the olden days sell their babies or not, it is true when the family believes in giving a better life to the children if they cannot afford to themselves (as chinese believe in quality life). Compared this to malays, they will have 5-8 children in kampungs especially nowadays, and some subsist on less than $2000 a month, but they rely heavily on gov’t & the mosque subsidies, and eat mainly plain white rice & curry.

      For Example, Rafidah Aziz is a chinese that has been given to a malay family ‘cos her family cannot afford her at that time. And that is nothing to be ashamed of, but all because of poverty……

  3. wahaha says:

    1 Malaysia

  4. MyBlog says:

    What lah this Interlok, is this the standard of our Ministry of Education that they adopt a book like that which if correctly quoted seems to me as a very disturbing piece of literature OR is it someone’s sinister mischief to demoralise and reduce the confidence of non malay students?????

    Pathetic…shame on you whoever is the author…and you call this literature… is more of a sytemic brainwash of innocent students

  5. Maz says:

    Interlok is like a “good” Joseph Conrad novel about pre-colonial/colonial
    Malaya; it has drama, it has charming characters, it is loosely based on real history (yes,
    some Chinese families did sell their daughters for economic and familial
    gain, as did some Malay and Indian families), and it is mostly the work of a Malay
    academic viewing the prism of pre-colonial and colonial Malaya through the eyes of
    a prized Western author who probably served as the basis for some obtuse and
    gradiose graduate thesis, written by the author, at a Malaysian university in the 1970s
    or 1980s. It would make a great movie (too bad P Ramlee isn’t around to lead it) but
    a very lousy textbook.


    Hartal MSM: Maz, the author was NOT an academic. His sloppy ‘research’ into historical background would never have passed any academic rigour, even at undergraduate level. As far as his biodata goes, there is no indication that he had a basic degree. He’d have been in his twenties around 1940 when there wasn’t universal suffrage in education, much less in colonial Malaya.

    No, far from being ‘charming’ (unless you’re using reverse psychology), this sick book now hijacked by Ketuanan Melayu has little human value. You so insult Joseph by comparing Abdullah’s tripe with Conrad’s iconic “the horror(ific)” plunge in the heart of darkness . More later. As we said — watch our space.

    • chan m says:

      I agree that the authors research is sloppy.doesn’t seem like an educationist.We can do without contributions like this to ‘educate our kids, be it a malay or a non malay.

  6. KOK Yoon Lee says:

    Turn the other cheek?

  7. limml says:

    Now i know the basis of BTN saying that the indian came to malaysia as begger and the chinese women came here as prostitute.They based it on fiction.While the indian make a lot of noise over this interlock issue. But come election they may still vote for BN for crumbs. Chinese are different. They may not make noise now and gladly receive the goodies from BN come general election, but they may vote PR.

  8. Collin Abraham says:

    Can I respectfully suggest that readers take a look at a book on race relations during this period from a much wider perspective?
    Kindly get a copy of “The Naked Social Order: Racial polarization in Malaysia” published by Pelanduk in 2004.Copies should be available at leading bookstores.

    • Subashini says:

      Can’t seem to find this book in any local bookstores using their online database – both MPH and Kinokuniya came up with nothing. Pelanduk has it listed on its website without a price. And when I tried to submit an inquiry form to find out about it, the system crashed. Which is, it must be admitted, a typical Malaysian experience.

  9. Katharina Sri (ex Noor Aza) says:

    The Chinese leaders, whether from the ruling BN or the opposition such as DAP, are too busy being Dhimmies! Pathetic!

  10. TL says:

    I am of Chinese ethnic. Yes, it is true that the society does not favour girls in their midst. Selling daughters was very common in the olden days.This is well documented through both historical journals and/or novels. There is no need to deny the known fact just because we are ashamed of it. But I won’t say it is racist to portray the character as such; it depends very much on the context in which the character is placed in the story. I have not read the book, but from the comments and objections raised, I reckoned the whole book is portrayed very narrowly to the ugliest possible side of the cultures and societies of others. What is the intent of the book or the author? If it is to portray the ugliness of ethno-cultures, then why only touch on the Indians and Chinese? Surely there is equally if not more negatives aspect in the Malay society as well. Still, it is up to the author’s discretion to write as he sees it fit. And for the society as a whole to accept or reject it. What is objectable is touting of the book as national laureate. That is the failure of the institution who chose the book as such. What is objectable also is listing the book as a subject to read as literature in the school setting. That is the failure of the education system of the government.

  11. tan, tanjung bungah says:

    Hi everyone,

    Why is the MCA & Gerakan, both claiming to be so-called custodians of the interests of ALL Malaysians, so silent on such rascists’ remarks contained in INTERLOK, an official prescribed textbook for schools?

    Is it any wonder that Malaysians view these 2 parties as spineless and gutless (to use the term of CSL), only preoccupied with self-interests and ‘bodeking’ UMNO for goodies and more goodies, at the expense of the people?


    Hartal MSM:
    Urm, you sapu MCA & Gerakan but why lah you let the dhimmi DAP so easily off the hook?

    • tan, tanjung bungah says:

      Hi Hartal MSM,

      I didn’t comment on DAP and NGOs as it is my view that MCA and Gerakan are the parties, within the current administration, which keep saying/claiming that they’re the ones fighting within the ruling coalition for the interests of every Malaysian. And MOE is under the current administration of which MCA & Gerakan are part of, but the DAP and NGOs are not. Though PR parties and NGOs, academically associated or otherwise, are welcome to comment on such a text, which is prescribed by MOE as an official textbook

    • infansolaris says:

      Yes, why only MCA and Gerakan? Why the deliberate omission of DAP? They kept silent on the ethnic slur’s heaped upon Indians in this poor excuse of a book simply because its an Indian problem. Not theirs. And they’re keeping mum on the racial stereotyping of the Chinese because they don’t want to be seen as anti-Ketuanan (the book was chosen just for that – a desperate attempt to glorify and sanction the pathetic idea of Ketuanan Melayu by demeaning other races). The spontaneous orgasm that comes with pandering to their perception of all things Islamic (right or wrong) is far too important to forfeit for a bunch of chinks and kelings. For God’s sake, that dhummy of a DAP Cheap Minister shamelessly styles himself after a Muslim ruler (who had no inkling of democracy) from a bygone era. His chanting of Makkarr Sakti! Makkarr Sakti! (in Chinese accent) has transformed into the stupidly misspelled Amal makruf nahi mungkar. The sick SOB.

    • Ting says:

      To Harta MSM
      MCA, MIC and Gerakan are the component parties of Barisan and if they voice out, UMNO should listen. They are the government. If opposition voiced out, the Federal Govt. won’t give in. They will oppose whatever the opposition proposed. But see if they respect their own component parties MCA and MIC or not. Then why vote MCA and MIC if they got no voice in Barisan. How to represent the non-Malays then?
      Ting, do DAP even realise that Interlok was discriminatory about the chinese? Thus far, Hindraf/HRP were the ones slamming the book and (almost) everyone thought it was only an ‘indian’ problem. So how now, DAP? – shar101.

  12. Lee says:

    Dear MCA,Gerakan,DAP,MIC,PPP,MahkSathi whatever………can you ladies and gentlemen all please resign from your comfortable posts and go become petani or nelayan. Just disappear OK.Pathetic diam ubi betul so scared of amno,perkosa as tho they are monsters.

  13. Jotan says:

    I believe the main reason for the silence was because most chinese didn’t bother to read this pariah book even for free.

  14. truth says:

    who cares?
    the chinese sell their daughters, so?
    the indians are pariahs, so?
    the chinese are prostitutes, so?
    the indians are criminals, so?
    the chinese and indians are pendatang, so?

    I don’t care a damn about those statements, maybe they are true, or false, got nothing to do with me, I’m just me, a Malaysian.

    only those pariahs really get angry, but when they get money, they vote back bn.

    • what the hell says:

      “only those pariahs really get angry, but when they get money, they vote back bn.”
      by this statement wrote by truth is it truth
      if indians are pariahs then what malays re they re just lazy people
      indian were brought to tanah melayu by the british to become rubber tapper and why the malays the lazy
      people can’t tap rubber by themselves . chinese were also brought by british for mining bijih timah why malays can’t go and go mining themselves . the malays re just lazy people
      and this wat u call 1 malaysia

  15. Maz says:

    Hartal MSM: Maz, the author was NOT an academic. His sloppy ‘research’ into historical background would never have passed any academic rigour, even at undergraduate level. As far as his biodata goes, there is no indication that he had a basic degree. He’d have been in his twenties around 1940 when there wasn’t universal suffrage in education, much less in colonial Malaya.

    No, far from being ‘charming’ (unless you’re using reverse psychology), this sick book now hijacked by Ketuanan Melayu has little human value. You so insult Joseph by comparing Abdullah’s tripe with Conrad’s iconic “the horror(ific)” plunge in the heart of darkness . More later. As we said — watch our space.


    “….unless you’re using reverse psychology” (I AM !)
    Point taken. However, comparison to Conrad was allusional and not literal, as I am sure Mr Conrad
    would have easily recognized. The point was to illustrate the largely allegorical nature of Interlok,
    not to comment on the literary quality of Almayer’s Folly, Heart of Darkness, Lord Jim or Victory. Again,
    it was a somewhat facetious metaphorical comparison. It is true that, normally, one needs a higher degree
    to become an academic (in Malaysia as much as anywhere else) and Hussain’s education at the Anglo Chinese School in Alor Setar obviously would not have advanced him far in Malay academic inner circles.
    However, the style and approach of Hussain in Interlok is very much patterned on the academic tripe
    that tenure-track (and tenured) faculty put out annually. I am pretty sure Hussain thought he was writing
    in the popular style of neo-social realism (Anwar thought so anyway, not that this proves much) but you
    are correct that Hussain does not have any formal education beyond the equivalent of present-day
    Form 5. In no way do I endorse Interlok from any perspective (I think you know that).


  16. Perkosa says:

    One stupid novel which 1Malay-sial Bodohcation Minister chosen to school text book. This is direct chalange to DONKEY MIC, DONKEY MCA, DONGKEY PPP AND DONKEY GERAKAN. All these pak turuts have no back bones to standard up non malays as they always conveniently claim. What they want is ADUN, MP, MINISTER, APPOINTMENT IN GOVERNMENT COMPANIES for monaterial gains. Nothing else. They are not fighting for the non malays. In fact they envy the oppositions who do something in states controlled by PAKATAN. BARISAN NASIONAL is a bloody thick face party run by UMNO. The components parties has no say in the cabinet. The component parties reps are sitting in Cabinet to warm the seats and receive goodies and contracts that benefit they alone. These can been seen clearly. The P***** INDIANS AND PROSTITUTE CHINESE can see these with their own eyes and yet choose to ignore. Every elections they stil vote DOKEYS OF DONKEY MIC, DONKEY MCA, DONGKEY PPP AND DONKEY GERAKAN.

  17. katdog says:

    Yes. Chinese in ancient times DO sell theirs daughters off. What is so insulting or racist about that? People of many Asian countries do practice such customs as well.

    Prostitution is also norm among chinese communities especially in the old days. Even today we still have the problem of ‘china dolls’. In Singapore there is legalized prostitution. Does this statement hurt? Is it insulting? If someone wrote a story about today’s China dolls, will we claim that it is an attempt to insult the chinese???

    These are totally different from sweeping statements such as ‘chinese women came to sell their bodies’. Yes this statement is totally inappropriate and the statement is totally meant to denigrate and insult a particular community.

    Are we not mature enough to tell the difference? Or are we going to jump on every little thing and claim to have been insulted and hurt by it?
    Katdog, would you trust BTN-trained teachers to explain the intricacies of Interlok to impressionable young minds? There are enough adult bigots and we don’t need more in the future – shar101.

    • True Story:
      A Malay mum brings her 2 kids to register at an educational centre to learn English. The first words out of the kids mouths when they see the door open is “Eh! Cina lah!”

      The teacher ignores the obvious implication and says hello, offering to shake hands. Kids turn to their mum and declare: “Dia Cina lah! Tak boleh salam!” The mum is embarassed and corrects them.

      Since they didn’t get this idea from their mum who sees them every day, who else has enough access to these kids to have this message drummed it into their heads?

      I would say the schools – 6 hours in Sek Kebangsaan every day is more that enough time

  18. ALAN says:

    salam!novel ini memang benar ceritanya…yang saya tahu bangsa malaysia yg lain seperti Melayu dan India pun sama sama ada jual anak perempuan mereka jua.haha…jangan cemburu sesama kaum,saya pun berpunya ramai sex-partner bangsa bangsa 1malaysia..tapi kalau kamu tak punya seperti saya ,tolong lah jangan merajuk di sini!haha….ha..

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