I’m a fan of BBC’s radio shows and have it on all day, if possible. From news to analyses of current affairs on its World Service to comedy, it’s one way to stay sane cleaning playdough off the carpet or peeling prawns.

One of the more entertaining programs on today was on the Asian Network Report, called ‘Don’t call me Asian’. It’s about why 80 per cent of British Hindus don’t want to be called ‘Asian’ for various reasons, among which was that they didn’t want to be grouped together with Muslim Pakistanis. The report interviewed Hindus, Sikhs and Pakistanis on what they thought about this latest ‘uproar’ over the classification ‘Asian’.

But first, a question:

Is this not the most ridiculous rubbish you’ve ever heard?

Why the need for further segregation? Why would anyone call you an Asian if you don’t, at the very least, look like one? Does being called Asian bear some kind of…stigma that you’re somewhat of lower class or inferior quality? So what if someone mistakes you for a Muslim instead of a Hindu for the two seconds until you correct them? 

Would Brits be offended if they were called Europeans? Would the term ‘Caucasian’ be offensive to, say, the Muslim Azerbaijanis because today, it just means anyone who’s white, and anyone who’s white is assumed to be Christian?

As a Malaysian Chinese, a citizen of a Muslim country, I have encountered many such ignorant assumptions. However, it is the unsurprising result of globalisation happening faster than we can handle, what with Malaysia being perhaps still quite an obscure country on the world stage despite our architectural achievements and space travel ambitions. It is, at the very least, a forgiveable assumption if people here in the US think I’m

– from China; and/or
– a Muslim. 

But unlike these hoity-toity 80% of Hindus who’re Brits and don’t like to be called Asians (careful qualification here), I like correcting those who make the mistake, that I am neither from Mainland China nor am I Muslim. At best, those who ask are genuinely curious, which adds to my exoticism. At worst, they seem pleasantly surprised. Either way, it is a good conversation starter.

Am I slighted that people know next to nothing about Malaysian Chinese? Would Azerbaijanis be slighted if we thought they were mostly Christians? If so, nobody knows, or cares.

In other words, what is the big fucking deal?

Is wanting NOT to be called Asian, but instead ‘British Hindu’ or ‘British Sikh’ not racist even as it claims be more politically correct? It’s one thing wanting to be more specifically identified so as to be categorised wrongly as a Chinese when one is clearly Indian. It’s quite another wanting to be recognised, even in the most superficial sense (say, a physical description for a police report or when filling out an online form, or when described in the media) that one is not Muslim or of some other religion.

But even that is not important. When one gets all riled up about being assumed a slew of things when one is not, one must consider if getting outraged will

– make people want to learn more about the different types of South Asians?

– earn one the proper respect because one is addressed race-and-religion-appropriately ?

– improve our quality of life?

– make us better human beings?

– exclude you the unfortunate random booty-check at the airport?

If the answer to all these questions is no, then I ask you again

What is the big fucking deal?

In the end, it all smacks of meaningless segregation, is what I think. There are more serious problems in the world to bother one’s afternoon with than the sensibilities of a few thousand British Hindus.

I say suck it up. I’m sure you’ve been called worse.