Malaysians' opinions about the African community

An African man sitting along the walkway of Metro Prima Kepong in Selangor, Malaysia.

Good or bad, many Malaysians have their opinions about the African community here.

For some, like taxi driver Lim Tuck Weng, their encounters with the African community have been less than favourable.

In his three years driving a taxi, Lim, 65, has had several negative experiences with African passengers.

"Once, two Africans started fighting in the car. They were shouting obscenities at each other. I stopped my car halfway and told them to get off," he says.

He recalls another incident which occurred around 3.30am in Kepong. Four Africans got into his taxi and asked to be sent to Damai Damansara, Lim recounts.

"On the way there, they claimed my taxi meter was going too fast and became very fierce, accusing me of cheating them. When we got to the destination, the meter fare was RM14 (S$6). Stopping outside a mamak shop, I ran inside and told two men there what had happened. When I came out with them, my passengers had left without paying me.

"These days, I am very careful. I usually take a look first. If they are well-dressed and look decent, then it's fine. But I usually prefer not to take them," he says.

Another Malaysian who only wants to be identified as Nur relates her experience while filling up some forms in a bank.

"An African man came very near me and asked: Baby, can I borrow your pen?' as he touched my hip. I got a shock and screamed Who's your baby? Who's your baby?' He in turn was shocked and ran out from the bank," she relates, adding that nowadays she usually feels uncomfortable around Africans.

"Once bitten, twice shy," she explains.

On the other hand, some Malaysians have only good things to say.

Media practitioner Jeremy Teh, 30, calls his Nigerian tenant a "nice fellow", and says that he's never failed to pay rent.

"Sometimes, I will need to remind him that his rent is due. He would apologise profusely and bank in the money within a few days.

"Once he went back to his country and could not be reached for about two weeks. I thought he was avoiding me as he did not tell me he was away. But he returned my call immediately after landing in KLIA. Not only did he bank in the money he owed that month, but also the rent for the following month," Teh says.

Teh believes one should not be prejudiced when dealing with Africans.

"There are nice Malaysians and awful ones. I had many African friends while studying in Australia, mostly Zimbabweans and Ghanians. They were nice folks," he explains.

IT consultant Alex Tan, 36, only has positive things to say about his close friend, chemistry professor Dr Noel Thomas. "I've known Noel for over 10 years now. We were introduced by the then pastor of my church, and we just clicked due to our common faith and love for books," he says.

"Whenever we hang out together, people do stare but it doesn't bother us. I see him as a friend who's reliable and trustworthy, someone who'd go the extra mile for you. He's very genuine and has a fantastic sense of humour."

He adds: "Noel has taught me to see things in a different light, he's always very objective. If there are people who judge him before they even get to know him... I think they're ignorant. It's really their loss."

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