Agence France-Presse - 5/15/2009 4:47 AM GMT
Malaysian court allows use of racial slur in dictionary
A Malaysian court has said the use of a perceived racial slur in aMalay-language dictionary to describe the country's minority Indians ispermissible, according to a report Friday.The High Court allowed the use of the word 'keling', generally considered offensive by ethnic Indians, dismissing an appeal by an Indian Muslim group that had sued the government's language institute over its inclusion in theirdictionary, the Star newspaper said.The group had sought to remove the word from the dictionary and wanted it dropped from the names of buildings and roads, arguing that 'keling' wasinsulting and degrading to the Indian Muslim community, the paper reported.
The judge said the language institute was only carrying out its statutory dutyby including the word in the dictionary and that the constitutional right tonon-discrimination referred to individuals rather than institutions.The word 'keling' was originally used by locals to describe Indian migrants inthe 19th century and was used on signs and as place names by British colonial authorities.However, it is resented by some in Malaysia because it has long been used in a derogatory manner to refer to Indians.Issues related to religion, language and race are sensitive matters in Malaysia.About 60 percent of Malaysia's 27 million people are ethnic Malay Muslims. The country's minority Chinese and Indians are mostly Buddhists, Hindus orChristians.Ethnic Indians -- many of whom are descendants of labourers brought over byBritish colonial rulers in the 1800s -- complain they are marginalised in termsof education, wealth and opportunities.
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