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The Malay Dilemma

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Language  English
Publication date  1970
OCLC  246739691
Author  Mahathir Mohamad
Page count  188
Country  Malaysia
3.9/5 Goodreads

Publisher  Asia Pacific Press
Pages  188
Originally published  1970
ISBN  978-981-204-355-9
Subject  Non-fiction
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Similar  A Doctor in the House: The Mem, A new deal for Asia, The Chinese Dilemma, The Malaysian Currency, Reflections on ASEAN

Bjas 22 the malay dilemma mahathir mohamad nizhan faraz university of toronto ontario

The Malay Dilemma is a controversial book written by Mahathir bin Mohamad in 1970, 11 years before he became Malaysia's 4th Prime Minister.



At the time of publication, Mahathir had just lost his parliamentary seat, been expelled from the ruling party UMNO and Malaysia had recently been rocked by the racial riots later known as the 13 May Incident. The book analyses Malaysian history and politics in terms of racism, and posits the following basic positions:

  • The Malay race are the indigenous people (bumiputras) of Malaysia.
  • The sole national language is the Malay language and all other races are to learn it.
  • The tolerant and non-confrontational nature of the Malays has allowed them to be subjugated in their own land by the other races with the collusion of the British.
  • A program of affirmative action is required to correct Malaysian Chinese hegemony in business.
  • The dilemma thus, was whether Malays should accept this governmental aid—and Mahathir's position was that they should.

    Prone to sweeping statements about other races, such as describing Jews as "hook-nosed", the book entrenched Mahathir's image as a Malay ultra (chauvinist). However, Mahathir also dissects the multiple failings of his own race, and the book was intended as a solution leading away from violence towards a harmonious, integrated Malaysia (albeit one where political and economic power is firmly concentrated in the hands of the Malays).

    Mahathir was readmitted to UMNO in 1972 and became the Prime Minister in 1981, and in time most of the policies suggested in the book were indeed adopted by the Malaysian government, most notably in the Malaysian New Economic Policy. The dilemma was revisited in 2000 to 2002 by Mahathir and his successor Abdullah Ahmad Badawi, who now argued that Malays were well on the way to catching up, and that they should now be weaned away from the "crutches" that had allowed them to compete.


    In the preface of the book's first edition, its British publisher casts doubt on the accuracy of Mahathir's assumptions and facts. Mahathir has been criticised for the lack of documentary evidence to buttress his many arguments and conclusions. Bakri Musa states that his assertions and assumptions were based on his personal observations and experiences, with no empirical data to support them.


    The Malay Dilemma Wikipedia

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