The Malays as an ethnic group has been defined on the basis of both legal-constitutional and historical-cultural factors. While it is difficult to speculate or visualise correctly the future of any country or people, it is possible to provide a general outline of the trends of the past and present, and probably attempt to at least indicate what should be avoided and promoted to ensure a better future. This is what Dr Syed Husin Ali attempts in this book. In nine chapters, he discusses the Malays and their origin, history, religion, economy, politics and development up to the present day. He connects all of these to the various changes in the forms of modernisation and development programmes which affected, and continue to impact upon, the Malays.
Three decades have passed since the book was first published. During that time many changes have taken place in the country. But the basic problems facing the Malays, contends the writer, have remained the same. The current controversies on the declining power of the Malays, as perceived by some, affirm these problems, and make the book more relevant.
Dr Syed Husin Ali is currently deputy president of the People’s Justice Party (PKR). Born in 1936 in Batu Pahat, Johor, he obtained his honours degree in Malay Studies from University of Malaya (Singapore) and MA (Kuala Lumpur), before completing his Ph.D at the London School of Economics and Political Science. He was professor of anthropology and sociology at the University of Malaya, Kuala Lumpur, where he served for 28 years before being asked to leave over his political involvement.
An academician turned social activist and politician, his book Two Faces chronicles his detention without trial in Kamunting from 1974-1980, under the draconian Internal Security Act. His writing, among others, include Social Stratification in Kampung Bagan, Apa Erti Pembangunan, Malay Rural Society and Leadership, Poverty and Landlessness in Kelantan, Ethnicity, Class and Development (ed.), Isu Raja dan Perlembagaan and Merdeka, Rakyat dan Keadilan.