Malaysia at the Crossroads: Race-based Politics, the Emergence of a Multiracial Alternative and the Road Ahead



Nik Nazmi Nik Ahmad,

Date and Time

October 14, 2009 4:30 PM - 6:00 PM



Open to the public.

RSVP required by 5PM October 12.


Daniel and Nancy Okimoto Conference Room

Although its people are mainly Muslim, Malaysia is notably diverse.  Many communities of faith live together in relative harmony.  Yet ethnic tensions and decades of authoritarian rule have undermined national unity and a sense of shared purpose.  Since the watershed election of 2008, a revived political opposition and an active civil society have increasingly challenged the divisive politics of race and religion in Malaysia.  But severe obstacles still thwart full democratization and genuine pluralism. 

In his talk, Nik Nazmi Nik Ahmad will analyze the complexities of Malaysia’s race-based political system, the prospects of the country’s multiracial opposition, and what these dynamics imply for the future of democracy in Malaysia.

Nik Nazmi Nik Ahmad was elected to the Selangor State Assembly in Malaysia in March 2008 as a candidate of the opposition People’s Justice Party (Partai Keadilan Rakyat).  His roles in Keadilan include membership in the party’s National Youth Executive Committee.  In 2006-08 he served as private secretary to Keadilan’s de facto leader at the time, Anwar Ibrahim. 

Nik Nazmi is a columnist at the Malaysian Insider and the founder of, a web magazine for young Malaysians.  He has been widely published in, and interviewed by, Malaysian and international media.  He read law and earned his LLB (Honors) from King's College, University of London.  While in London he joined British Muslims in protesting the occupation of Palestine and the war in Iraq.  His undergraduate work was done at the UEM Foundation College in Selangor, where he was elected president of the Student Council.  His secondary education was at the Malay College of Kuala Kangsar, which has been called “the Eton of the East.”  During his student career, he was active in multiple extra-curricular settings, including Muslim and social-service organizations and English-language debating teams.  He was born in Malaysia in 1982.